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Posted May 13, 2014

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Grant Students Create Mats for Homeless out of Plastic Bags

The students in Andrea Schweim's classes combined research and math skills to do something positive for the community.

As the school year comes to an end, a group of Grant Middle School students focused on using the time they have left to make life a little easier for some of the city’s most challenged.

Math teacher Andrea Schweim assigned her students a project in which they combined their research and math skills to do something positive for the community. The class, with Schweim’s help, researched the topic of homelessness in Albuquerque. Their findings were disturbing, but ultimately served as a call to action. After learning about the harsh realities of living on the streets, 46 students in grades six through eight started gathering plastic bags to construct mats for the homeless.

“I showed them a way to help people who are less fortunate than them by reusing existing resources to create something new,” said Schweim.

The entire Grant MS community pitched in by collecting more than 10,000 plastic shopping bags. Some parents even volunteered their time to cut the plastic into strips, but it was Schweim’s students who handled all the engineering.

“I teach math strategies and this project helped students work on estimation, measuring, projections, averaging, counting, recycling, group and team work, research, planning, preserving resources and life skills,” said Schweim.

Dr. Jeremy Reynalds, the founder and CEO of Joy Junction, says the mats are a great example of how youthful creativity and ingenuity can be used to help and alleviate need, and more than that, “It is important to teach young people to be kind. So doing will help them be less judgmental, and develop empathy and compassion for their fellow human beings as they get older.”

This week the mat crafters will take a field trip to the Joy Junction Homeless Shelters to hand over 15 completed mats. It should be a proud moment for Schweim who in one lesson plan managed to teach her students the difference we can all make when the heart and mind work together.

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