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Montessori students transform lives (and T-shirts)

Karen Liddell has a quote from legendary educator Maria Montessori beneath her email signature: “The greatest sign of success for a teacher … is to be able to say, ‘The children are now working as if I did not exist.'”  

And, sure enough, Mrs. Liddell — a Montessori teacher at Thurgood Marshall School – was all but invisible in the purple tent as two of her students sold shopping bags made of recycled T-shirts during the Garden Fair at Klehm Arboretum & Botanic Garden June 5-7.

I wasn’t sure about buying one of the shopping bags until Nyla Owens, a student in Mrs. Liddell’s class, noticed me scanning the bags hung on clothespins in the tent.  She waited a couple of beats. A good salesperson doesn’t pounce.

Montessori students Ayanna Grey (left) and Nyla Owens sell shopping bags made of recycled T-shirts at the Klehm Garden Fair.

Montessori students Ayanna Grey (left) and Nyla Owens sell shopping bags made of recycled T-shirts at the Klehm Garden Fair.

“What do you think about the bags? Do you want to go with the Beef-A-Roo one?” Nyla asked, after taking note of the bag I said I had liked earlier.

Bam. Another sale.

Nyla and her classmate, Ayanna Grey, will both be in the sixth grade at Marshall in the fall. They sold the bags as part of a project in Mrs. Liddell’s class to learn about the waste caused by plastic shopping bags. The project also raises money for the nonprofit organization Water for South Sudan, which drills wells to provide access to clean, safe water. The Montessori students already raised $12,000 to drill a well in a village in South Sudan. The bag project will pay for a new drill bit.

To date, students in Mrs. Liddell’s class have raised $1,146, exceeding their goal of $1,000. Not bad for bags that sold for $2.

The bags were made by students in Mrs. Liddell’s class of fourth, fifth and sixth graders in the Rockford Public Schools. Students sewed the reusable bags themselves with donated T-shirts they started collecting in March. To date, they have sold nearly 550 bags.

In addition to the Klehm Garden Fair, the students sold the bags at Rockford City Market May 22.

Julie Gibbs, a student teacher in Mrs. Liddell’s class this year, helped with the project. From the beginning, she said, “The students jumped at the opportunity to help this wonderful organization and the environment in one community outreach project.”

Mary Kaull is communications coordinator for the Rockford Public Schools. Click here to subscribe to this blog. Also, please like RPS 205 on Facebook and follow us on Twitter and Instagram.

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