Thanks to the Change the World Kids, Meg Miller and Phyllis Arata-Meyers for information and permission to tell their story.
Place a large, shallow dish filled with water in front of you, where children can see it. Place a globe or world map within your reach.
Phebe and Nika were two girls, both eight years old. Sometimes they heard about bad things going on around them in the world – things like terrible wars where people would die, or earthquakes that would shake the ground and destroy people’s homes. They wanted to help. But they weren’t sure what kids could do.
They decided to talk to the kids in their congregation, the North Universalist Chapel Society in Woodstock, Vermont. This was the beginning of the Change the World Kids – a group of children who work together to protect many different parts of the interconnected web of all life. When they learn about problems in the world, the Change the World Kids think of ways they can act to make a difference. They learned there is plenty kids can do to help.
The Change the World Kids are an action club. Their motto is: “No one can do everything, but everyone can do something.”
Repeat the motto, slowly, so children can listen carefully to it: No one can do everything, but everyone can do something.
Nika, Phebe, and all the other Change the World Kids learned about the ripple effect. They learned when one person takes action, even in one small way, that action can send ripples into the world around us, just as water ripples in a lake.
Indicate the dish filled with water.
Watch the surface of the water. When I poke my finger in it, you can see the ripples all around.
Demonstrate this. Pause and let the water settle. Repeat until all children have seen the ripples.
In Vermont, where the Change the World Kids live, many had birdfeeders in their backyards. The birdfeeders attracted beautiful songbirds. When Vermont got very cold, birds migrated south, to warmer places for winter. One springtime, a couple of Change the World Kids noticed fewer birds came back to their birdfeeders after the winter. They wanted to know: What had happened to the birds?
A scientist told the Change the World Kids about endangered species – animals that might become extinct if nobody helped save the natural woods and forests and oceans the animals needed to live. The children learned that the birds they saw in Vermont in the spring and summer were losing their winter homes in Costa Rica, because people were cutting down trees. People in Costa Rica wanted the wood to build new homes. Or, sometimes they wanted to cut the forest to make more pastureland to feed beef cattle or to grow crops. But the trees were already being used as homes – by the birds. The children learned that tropical birds, like the three-wattled bell bird, will not even fly over land that has no trees, and when northern birds migrate for food in the winter and find none, they die.
What could the kids do? The problem was happening thousands of miles away, in Costa Rica.
Point out Costa Rica on the globe or world map. Point out Vermont.
How could the kids help? Vermont was so far away from Costa Rica, and the kids were just kids!
I will give you a hint. Watch the water again.
Indicate the dish filled with water. Poke the water surface. Repeat until all children have seen the ripples.
The Change the World Kids remembered the ripple effect. Maybe they couldn’t do everything to save the bell birds, but they could do something! They raised money to help start a tree nursery, Bosque para Siempre – that means “forest forever” in Spanish. They used some of the money they raised to buy land for a new habitat for the migratory birds. Some of the kids took trips to Costa Rica to help plant trees. They have replenished the forest with more than forty thousand trees that provide fruit and shade for many species of birds.
One time in Costa Rica, the Change the World Kids helped put tags on birds. Tags help scientists keep track of the birds and learn more about them. The Change the World Kids got to hold a red-breasted grosbeak and a wood thrush – both birds that spend part of the year in Vermont. In time, as the effects of their actions in Costa Rica are felt all around the world, like the ripple effect, the Change the World Kids know they will begin to hear and see more birds in Vermont again!
Nika and Phebe grew older. New children joined the Change the World Kids. Now the action club has teenagers and middle-schoolers from many different religions. They know that every action, no matter how small, can have ripples that spread around them. To help protect the Earth, the Change the World Kids designed and sold reusable shopping bags. They made clotheslines so people could use the power of the sun, instead of electricity, to dry their clothes. The Change the World Kids do projects as simple as shoveling snow for an elderly person in their community and as complicated as raising money for children’s schools and health care in Rwanda, where communities have suffered from war.
Point out Rwanda on the globe or world map.
With every action, big or small, the Change the World Kids prove what Phebe and Nika learned: No, nobody can do everything, but yes, each person can do something to protect the Earth and all life on it. Each action makes a ripple, and the ripples change the world.