Guest post by Danielle Harrison, preschool teacher
A few years ago, I learned about an amazing cause called Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation (ALSF). As an educator of young children, I was instantly inspired by this organization and its founder Alex Scott. I thought—if one 4-year-old could make a difference, imagine what I could do with an entire class? I did some more research and learned that every year children across the U.S. still hold lemonade stands to raise money for pediatric cancer research, and I began to lesson plan!
For teachers, kindness is a buzz word. But many teachers struggle with how to effectively implement this into their curriculum without it falling flat. We teach our students to share, say hello, use “kind words.” Yet after young children are drilled with these expectations daily, it begins to lose its effect. The question constantly gnawing on our teacher brains is, “What do we do next to keep it fresh, effective and meaningful?”
ALSF is a natural fit for school curriculums. Teaching children at a young age about giving back is so important. So, four years ago we had a trial run of our first lemonade stand, and boy it was successful!
The children learned all about giving back to their communities. They discussed why to give back, how to give back and shared what causes were important to them. I had students go door-to-door to raise money, and asked one child who held a small lemonade stand to bring that money into our fund and reach our goal. Our goal was $800. We raised $4,000 (5 times our goal!).
After our initial success, we decided to take on this challenge again. This time, our ambition and ideas grew. We made shirts, signs and of course, lemonade! Most important, we raised over $5,000. This past year, we held another Alex’s Lemonade Stand. I sat in front of the 17 4-year-olds in my class and talked about giving back. We talked about donations and why it is important to stand up and let your voice be heard about something. We explored the idea that even though we may not be sick, there are other kids that can’t go to ballet or karate or school, and we can help them! By holding a lemonade stand and standing up for something, we can make a difference. How cool is that?!
As a teacher, we must still hit teaching goals. Implementing this theme provides a wealth of opportunities to do just that. We were able to use math (charts, graphs, numbers), literacy (sign making, inventive spelling, drawing), and science (making lemonade). The well-rounded curriculum ALSF provides is unique. Aside from the cognitive benefits, the social/emotional growth is immeasurable. Watching my students begin to develop empathy is an experience I cherish every single year.
Building a generation of strong, smart, thoughtful people is important and inspiring. Teaching our students to stand up and fight for something, even if life doesn’t seem all that fair. It’s our job as educators to not only teach, but motivate our students to do more, and hopefully, one day change the world. But most importantly, and rather simply, Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation teaches us a pretty valuable lesson… when life gives you lemons -- just make lemonade!
Danielle Harrison is a preschool teacher in New York City. She has Masters Degrees in early childhood education and clinical social work. Last year, Danielle was honored with the ALSF “Kids Helping Kids” Award at the Foundation’s New York City culinary event for raising over $15,000 over the past four years to help other kids. When she is not encouraging young minds and hearts, you might find her reading on the beach. In fact, her favorite way to drink lemonade is on a beach with a book in her hand.