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Boise teacher inspires her students to make a difference

As part of a lesson on reformers, the first and second graders at Riverside Elementary are making "Blessing Bags" for the homeless.

BOISE, Idaho — You're never too young to make a difference. First- and second-graders in the gifted and talented program at Riverside Elementary School in Boise are proving that to be true with the help of this week's Innovative Educator.

Teacher Amy Brownlee is inspiring them to make the world a better place.

"I wrote a unit on reformers and how to make change," Brownlee said.

She's teaching the students about reformers including Eleanor Roosevelt, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Jackie Robinson, and young reformers, such as Jahkil Jackson. He started giving out "Blessing Bags" to the homeless in Chicago when he was 8 years old.

As part of the lesson, the students had to come up with ways they would like to make a difference in their community.

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They took inspiration from Jackson's project and are putting together "Blessing Bags" to give to the homeless in Boise. The bags include toothbrushes and toothpaste, lip balm, tissues, cough drops, granola bars and a handwritten message from the students. One of those messages said "Smile all day long."

"I get really sad when I see homeless people out on the street," second-grader Marielle Rowlison said. "I like it that we're helping other people."

To spread the word about their project they made posters and shared them with other classes and their parents in hopes of getting donations for the "Blessing Bags." It worked.

"When those donations started rolling in they were like, wow, we're going to make this happen," Brownlee said.

"It makes me happy that I'm doing a big thing with helping people," second-grader Daniel Bailey said.

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"If there's anything you can do for a child, it's allowing them to realize that they have a voice," Brownlee said.

The class collaborated on this cause, but came up with other ideas for reform, such as protecting insects, protecting the environment and protecting people from pollution.

That was Bailey's idea.

"Well, because if you breathe in air pollution you end up coughing or getting really, really, really, really, a thousand reallys sick," Bailey said.

"They're not afraid. They'll dive right in," Brownlee said. "They'll talk about it. They'll tell others about it."

That passion of her young reformers affected Brownlee.

"It's inspired me to want to make a change, too," Brownlee said. "I'm going to be just as proud as they are to deliver those blessing bags to the homeless shelters."

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Part of the kids' assignment was to contact the media to try to get news coverage. That's how we found out about their project and decided to cover their story.

They say they need more donations of hygiene products and granola bars because they want to keep making "Blessing Bags" to give to the homeless people in Boise.

If you'd like to help, you can drop off donations at Riverside Elementary School at 2100 E. Victory Road near Bown Crossing.

If you'd like to nominate a teacher as an Innovative Educator, you can email us at innovativeeducator@ktvb.com

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