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Change for change: kids help fund education in Middle East

ARLEE — Some whisper; some chant; some are silent except for the copper clinking in their hands. It’s Pennies for Peace time again in Arlee Elementary teacher Sibley Ligas’ second-grade class, and the youngsters are turning piles of loose change into neat stacks, meticulously counting each and every coin.

After the success of last year’s change collection drive, Ligas decided to have her class participate in the project again by asking the elementary and middle schools to contribute their spare change. Over the last two months, Arlee students in kindergarten through eighth grade raised $181 in change, mostly pennies, for the Central Asia Institute’s Pennies for Peace program. Pennies for Peace takes change collected by American schoolchildren and uses the funds to build schools and buy school supplies in Afghanistan and Pakistan. According to the program’s Web site, “A penny in the United States is virtually worthless, but in Pakistan and Afghanistan a penny buys a pencil and opens the door to literacy.”

Not only do Ligas’ students learn that the value of a penny isn’t just limited to what it can buy in the United States, but they get plenty of hands-on practice during the class’ unit on money. By the time all the coins are counted — the class counted $181 in about two hours Monday morning — the kids are well versed in counting by 5s and 10s. Of course, there was a little geography thrown in, too, so the students understand where their money is going and how it will help kids in another part of the world. 

“So it’s part of our curriculum,” Ligas explained. “This is just a perfect way to do it, because it’s a light application.”

Ligas noted that even when experiencing financial trials in today’s economy, the Arlee community always seems ready to help others less fortunate.

“I was very pleased with the amount of money we raised,” she said. “It just goes to show we are such a great community … we’re always ready to help, whether it’s locally or (elsewhere).”

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