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Innovative Student Project Raises Funds for The ALS Association

October 4, 2004

David Pivirotto, a seventh and eighth grade teacher at the all-boys Landon School in Bethesda, MD, has a novel approach to teaching his science classes. It is a multimedia approach, one that not only helps the boys at the school, but also helps the community. Instead of researching a subject and giving a presentation about it, his students have to create a website to teach their schoolmates what they have learned. This knowledge often acts to designate the results of their school-wide philanthropy.

 Landon School
Sam Dinte, Michael Picasso and Mr. Andrew Brophy 

Pivirotto’s eighth graders have to do a research project in the spring in which they pick a disease, learn about it, and present their results covering symptoms, research and treatments on a website created by the boys. The boys then share their website with the entire school, giving an oral presentation of their findings. You can view their website here.  

The school also demonstrates teamwork by doing a school-wide fundraising project. All the students are divided into seven cross-grade teams to participate in the "Penny Wars." Each team gets a five-gallon water cooler jug to fill up with coins. Pennies are positive points, silver coins are negative. The competition comes from trying to fill your jug with pennies before the competing teams can get any silver coins in, and getting some silver ones into their jugs. It’s a good-natured competition, as the jugs are not guarded by the teams.

All the money from the schools’ jugs goes to one charity. This year, the boys chose to designate The ALS Association and its research funds for their money to go to. Pivirotto believes strongly enough in this cause to match the donation, bringing the total to $850. The boys presented the check to The Association National Trustee Andrew Brophy at the school’s awards assembly. "David's vision of blending teaching, information technology and fundraising for ALS is truly unique.  I hope that others will see his approach as a wonderful ALS awareness tool," says Brophy.

"It was a great learning experience," says eighth-grader Sam Dinte. "It’s cool to be able to design a website like the ones we see every day. But the fun part is trying to get more nickels and dimes into the other teams’ water jugs."

 Landon School 2
Anand Bhatt hands their fundraising check to Mr. Andrew Brophy while Middle School Headmaster Mr. Randall Dunn looks on.

The website is available to the Landon school community, including parents. In this case, some of these parents are part of the National Institutes of Health. This year, three NIH doctors came in and gave presentations to the school on their area of disease expertise. They also act as resources for the students when they are doing their research and creating their web pages.

Another resource the boys can take advantage of is their proximity to George Washington University, and its teaching hospital. The students videotaped interviews with patients and doctors at the George Washington ALS Clinic, and used this footage in their multimedia website as well.

Pivirotto intends to continue this teaching plan for the foreseeable future. "It’s a great way to engage the kids’ minds, while having them participate in real-world exercises, like making a website and conducting information-gathering interviews. Don’t tell them it’s a learning experience," he says.




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