Fourth Grade Students Pop into Action for Iran

June 3, 2004

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    Marilee Needham's 4th grade classroom raised $200 for Mercy Corps' efforts in Bam, Iran through sales of popcorn. Photo: Roger Burks/Mercy Corps Photo:

The devastating earthquake that struck Bam, Iran last year instantly changed the lives of thousands of Iranian children and their families. Half a world away in Hillsboro, Oregon, the plight of those children encouraged students at Groner Elementary to find a way to help Mercy Corps save lives.

Marilee Needham’s fourth grade class had been studying earthquakes before beginning their winter break in December. Upon returning to school in January, they learned that a massive earthquake had caused widespread destruction in Bam. Having learned a lot about earthquakes, the students were shocked at its scale and damage.

“We felt sorry that people got hurt and lost a lot of their belongings, and so we wanted to help them rebuild,” one student said.

The class immediately began working on a way to raise money to aid survivors of the disaster. After debating several fundraising options, students decided to sell popcorn in order to raise money for relief efforts in Iran. According to the class, “popcorn isn’t as messy as chocolate”, and “everyone seems to like it.”

Their choice proved to be a success.

After sorting out real-life business issues such as inventory (they got the popcorn at a substantial discount) and advertising (posters were created and placed all over the school), the students opened the popcorn stand on January 20. Needham’s class sold small (25 cents) and large (50 cents) bags of popcorn at lunchtime. “It taught the students how to run a business,” said Needham. “They learned how to make change and figure out how much they’d made at the end of the day.”

By late March, the class had raised $200 to donate to relief efforts in Iran.

Needham helped the students make an informed decision about what organization would make the best use of their hard-earned money. The class chose to donate to Mercy Corps because of the organization’s work with children around the world.

When asked if they had a message for the people of Bam, the sentiment of the students was that they “hope the donation could help buy food to make the children strong and healthy.”

Months after the earthquake struck Bam, Mercy Corps is still working to rebuild the houses and livelihoods of Iranian families. The initiative and generosity of Needham’s fourth grade students at Groner Elementary is helping to provide aid and restore hope for those in Bam.