Fundraising Your Way to Costa Rica’s Rainforest

This coming spring Holly M. and her students will be touring the beautiful coastline and Arenal region of Costa Rica. Not only will they be zip-lining through Costa Rica’s rainforest and visiting a crocodile farm, but they will also be partaking in one of our hands-on service learning projects. Before they head off to Costa Rica’s Pacific coast and help reforest mangrove trees we sat down with Holly and discussed the hard work, commitment, and fundraising efforts that each student has dedicated to funding their trip. Costa Rica

Q. What inspired you to start traveling with your students?
A. I personally love to travel and think that it offers such a great opportunity both for scholarly learning and personal growth. It also allows one to see the world from a different perspective. Most of my students have never been outside of our county and giving them the opportunity to experience what life is like in other parts of the world will be something they will never forget. In addition I am hoping it will inspire them to continue to travel and look for ways to give back to others. Our school focuses on service learning that is why we chose a service learning trip.

Q. How early do you begin planning your fundraising strategy? What goes into planning a long-term strategy?
A. We began brainstorming last June. You have to break down the calendar and look at what is going on in your community and how you might be able to piggyback on big events that already gather a good amount of people together. Our town has a huge Veteran’s day parade so we knew early on we had to do something during the parade. Our kids decided on selling hot chocolate and muffins. We also will be making pies to sell during the month of November. Everyone loves pies during the holiday season. We are hoping to get some ingredients donated so it will help increase our profit margin.

Q. Do you and the students collaboratively decide on the fundraisers? If yes, how do you go about choosing them?
A. I started the process of brainstorming but definitely asked them for their opinion. I threw out a bunch of ideas and then each student was required to join a committee for a particular fundraising idea. From there that committee was responsible for utilizing our meeting times for planning and making their fundraising idea come to fruition.

Q. How do you go about motivating and encouraging students to embrace the group’s fundraising initiatives?
A. Having the students choose their own fundraising committee naturally gave them ownership. They really embraced the idea of making something happen for themselves, and they almost always surpass expectations.

Q. Currently, one of your fundraisers is selling a variety of themed pastas through Fun Pasta Fundraising. What led you to choose this fundraiser?
A. I was researching different fundraising companies and came across Fun Pasta Fundraising. When I saw the college themed pasta, I was sold. College football is huge here – especially UofO and Oregon State. I thought that this product was different enough and super fun so it would be easier to sell.

Q. What steps did you and the students take to organize and kick-off this fundraiser?
A. It was really simple and not much went into organizing it. I signed up for the fundraiser (which was super easy), picked dates, and then passed out the packets to the kids and said “go”!

Q. What advice would you give to other teachers and students fundraising for their tour?
A. I suggest setting goals for each fundraiser. I like setting group goals and individual goals. This gives something for the students to push towards.

Q. One aspect of fundraising that I think is great for the students is it challenges them to collaboratively work towards the same goal. With that in mind do you think the students have a better appreciation for the trip and the overall experience?
A. I definitely think that anytime so much time and effort goes into something, it will enhance the overall experience. By my students fundraising the majority of their trip they will always see their trip as something they made happen for themselves and will be more willing to fully engage in all parts of the trip because it is “their trip”. It wasn’t given to them, they earned it.

Q. Do you feel that before the trip has even happened, fundraising has helped improve life skills and provided a renewed personal sense of achievement for the students?
A. Absolutely. The steps they have to take to pull a fundraiser off, not only takes organization but communication, budgeting, marketing and these are all skills that they will need to be marketable employees. I am able to not just verbally teach them something so invaluable but give them the experience while I stand by them every step of the way.

Q. Has fundraising presented any new and different learning opportunities for you personally as a teacher?
A. Fundraising definitely increases the amount of “teachable moments”. A lot of real world learning takes place and not just for my students. I have to be up to date on city regulations and laws and it is not uncommon for the students to suggest an idea where I just don’t know exactly how it would work. But that is something we work through and learn together.

Zach Michonski

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