WARREN, NJ - Warren resident Emily Morris decided that she wanted to find a way to reduce waste in her community, and repurposing old sneakers through the Nike Reuse-A-Shoe program seemed to be a perfect fit. A fifth grader at Woodland School, Morris showed tremendous drive and determination by planning and carrying out a used sneaker drive as well as a fundraising day at her school. The combination of projects was part of her independent study for her REACH, Too! gifted and talented class.
Teacher PJ Jones’ goal was to afford the students a single authentic experience to create original projecPts focused on topics of interest, while applying the skills they have been learning. His directions were simple and open-ended. Encouraging students to expand their thinking and to select an idea with personal appeal captured the class immediately. As a framework, Jones had them use Lee Crockett’s Solution Fluency steps. He also supported them with a more fluid communication option. By using Google Drive, students shared their documents and Jones was able to monitor their progress, reflect, edit and advise.
Morris worked hard for ten weeks; each day her enthusiasm grew. After researching the program, precisely planning and carefully organizing the details, she spread the word around her school, and collected sneaker donations which filled numerous large bins. Morris explained, “The Nike factory in Oregon will transform the old sneakers into Nike Grind, which is used to make turf fields, tracks, playgrounds, and more."
That raised another problem for Morris to cleverly solve. In order to raise money to pay for the shipping of the sneakers to the facility in Oregon, she devised a fundraising plan. She contacted local business owner Tom Leitner, who was positive and helpful. By partnering with the Smoothie King in Warren she organized a Smoothie Day during lunch at her school. Morris collected roughly 200 orders from students and faculty, raising the cost slightly per order to make a profit to put towards the shipping costs. In total, almost $250 was raised from the Smoothie Day, which included donations from supportive staff members, to pay for the shipping of the shoes.
The project did not stop there.Two other schools were inspired. A Woodland parent collected at her work, a school in Scotch Plains. Additionally at William Patterson University, the basketball coach collected sneakers from his players.
Jones credits the students in his class as well as their former teacher Stacey Hann-Modugno who is now Curriculum Supervisor. “They are a community of critical thinkers. I am proud of how their independent study projects have flourished,” said Jones.
Morris’ success demonstrates that Warren Township Schools’ students can use 21st century problem-solving skills to achieve great things. With gumption, work, and a lot of planning, they shine brighter every day.