Aspen students helping globally through the soles of their shoes | AspenTimes.com

Aspen students helping globally through the soles of their shoes

Michael McLaughlin
The Aspen Times

Fifth grade students at Aspen Middle School gather pairs of shoes and pack them into plastic bags to send to Soles4Souls, a non-profit that collects donated shoes and clothing and distributes them globally to those in need.

Rae Lampe has been an art instructor at Aspen Middle School for 12 years, and encourages her students to think creatively whenever possible. Lampe also wants her students to think globally, which is often a new concept to middle school students.

When Lampe talked to her students about global issues and brought up facts and figures, she saw most students' eyes glaze over, so she changed her strategy and went visual, with much better results.

"Pictures sometimes make a bigger impression," Lampe said. "I can tell kids what 50,000 bags looks like, but if they see 50,000 bags, it makes a much bigger impact."

Lampe came up with an idea to make a video with a theme of "Give more and develop an attitude of gratitude," incorporating Aspen students as the commentators as they looked at different families around the world and the differences in class and income as well as the differences in consumption.

"The video is a collection of images that raises awareness to take responsibility for how we treat the Earth," Lampe said.

She also downplayed to her students the thought that people can't make a difference in the world, and started a campaign to collect shoes at the middle school to donate to Soles4Souls, a nonprofit that fights the impact and perpetuation of poverty. The organization collects new and used shoes then distributes them to people in need.

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The shoe collection began Nov. 10, and since then, the school has collected several hundred pairs for Soles4Souls.

Fifth-grader Harper Rafelson donated eight pairs of his used shoes.

"After I watched the video Ms. Lampe made, I thought it must be rough for those families that can't afford shoes," Rafelson said. "My shoes don't fit anymore, and this is a great way to help out. Hopefully my shoes will make a difference."

Lampe told a story to her class about a beach full of starfish that washed up on shore. A boy began to toss the starfish back in the water when a man approached him and told said not to bother tossing the starfish in the water because it wouldn't make any difference. The boy showed a starfish to the man and said, "It'll make a big difference to this starfish," as he tossed it in the water. He grabbed another and another and said the same thing again, proving every little helping hand can make a difference.

"Having the kids donate shoes makes them feel like they're making a difference," Lampe said.

She also asked students and teachers to publicly share what they're grateful for by writing it down and posting it in the main middle school hallway. Lampe keeps an African proverb posted for her students to see in her classroom that sums up the lesson she's trying to teach with the Soles4Souls project.

The proverb reads, "If many little people, in many little places, do many little things, they can change the face of the Earth."

Middle school Principal Craig Rogers said the project has been a great lesson for his school, especially at this time of year.

"It's a great way to incorporate the theme here of 'An attitude of gratitude,'" Rogers said. "It really ties into the Thanksgiving holiday."

mmclaughlin@aspentimes.com