Unintentional lessons…

Today is the second time this class is making loans via the kiva.org website. I confess the money was donated by their teachers, but it is a learning experience, an opportunity to show how this kind of lending works, to learn about social inequity in the world, to find out about other countries and raise awareness of how other people live. And hopefully it’s a way to encourage the students to make similar donations or loans of their own in the future.

Here’s a post at their class blog last time:

In class we looked at Maimonedes eight levels of charity. The highest level is giving someone a loan or finding them a job, so that they can support themselves and won’t need charity at all. We explored the Kiva.org website and lent money to people in developing countries. This is called micro-lending because it is only a relatively small amount of money.

You can see students’ reflections on why they chose their loans how they made their decisions here on their blog.

There is great excitement when they log in today and see that some of their previous loans had been repaid and there’s even an interview with one recipient saying what the loan has enabled her to do. We’ve topped up the account so that each group can log in and make one more donation before the end of the school year.

The students gather excitedly around computers to explore the site again and choose the recipients of their loans. It’s interesting to see each group approach this differently. One group looks at the world map and chooses a country they would like to ‘invest’ in.  Another is determined to find an individual who needs the loan the most. You can hear the buzz as they discuss and make their decisions.

Then something unexpected happens…

A student calls me over to see why there isn’t enough balance for his group to make their $25 loan. There is a commotion on the other side of the room and it turns out that one student has made a joke of the whole thing and donated the entire $100, leaving no credit for the other groups to complete their loans. The group concerned is laughing and being silly – but only for a moment. They realise what they have done and everything grinds to a halt. The session is over for everyone and what started on a high note has ended acrimoniously.

It is not the end of the world. No-one has actually stolen anything and the money is, after all, still being loaned to a worthy cause. But trust has been broken and worse, there is some denial and much blaming.

Many lessons have been learned today, not only by the students. Most of them have nothing to do with the original intentions of the lesson.

Would you do an activity like this in your class? How would you deal with the unexpected outcome?