Inside the Fall Issue:
by Bill Hornung
Jane Finn Levine and Larry Levine, founders of WHY's Kids Can Make A Difference (KIDS) program, chuckle at the assumptions people make about their association with Harry Chapin.
"When I first mentioned what we were doing with WHY, my kids said 'you used to tell us to turn off his music'," said Larry. While far from Chapin fans initially, the Levines' appreciation for Harry has grown as the KIDS program to educate school-aged children about hunger issues became part of WHY's mission.
KIDS provides teacher materials and learning activity ideas to engage middle- and high school students to actively participate in long-term solutions to eliminate the root causes of hunger and poverty. A teacher's guide, thrice-yearly newsletter and a website at www.kidscanmakeadifference.org provide a wealth of resources for teachers who want to motivate kids to take action.
KIDS was born in 1994 when the Levines were asked speak to a sixth-grade class about hunger. Jane was finishing her doctorate in nutrition education at the time, so she thought it was a great opportunity to apply some of her learning. The presentation was a rousing success, and quickly the Levines were a traveling show to 20 schools throughout New England and New York.
Jane's doctorate studies led her to an interview with Bill Ayres, who quickly enticed her and Larry to join WHY. The KIDS program eventually aligned with WHY when the Levines realized they could have more impact by teaching others how to conduct the program rather than doing it all on their own.
The first step was to create the teacher's guide, which has become the program's core. The KIDS newsletter was launched later to keep the information relevant by sharing examples of other creative ideas that teachers are using around the world.
The program has now distributed materials to nearly 4,000 schools and other venues internationally.
After running the program nearly single-handedly on a volunteer basis for seven years, the Levines say they've also learned a lot themselves:
In the end, the Levines hope the program imparts deep values in students that they keep for a lifetime. "The program has been time-consuming, but on the other side of the coin it has been a very gratifying experience," said Larry.
But the Levines are quick to point out that individual teachers who drive the program are the real heroes because they ultimately want to make a difference. "What has happened with the program is proof that there's a lot of concern," said Larry.
Watch for the Next Issue of Circle! on December 7th