Lessons from a Media Fast

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What could Year 5 students learn on a week-long media fast? Lots! The students gave up all technology—computers, tablets, TV, and even radio—to practise monitoring screen-time and to raise funds for a school and orphanage in Uganda.

Each of the three classes set a goal of raising $1000, but thanks to their enthusiastic avoidance of technology, the students brought in a grand total of $5,653.40. An impressive effort by Year 5!

A Meaningful Exercise

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5C raised $2405 ~ 5B raised $1143

The students explained how the funds they generated would be used.

Zachary raised $218 by giving up restaurant food and his pocket-money and doing extra jobs. He said, “The money will help make sure there is fresh water, better health, and an easier life for the orphans.” He went on to explain, “Money goes much further there. My forty dollars doesn’t get much here in Australia, but it can do a lot there.”

 

Charlotte, who enjoys maths, gave me a fiscal breakdown of their goals. “Three thousand dollars can build half a house over there. We have three classes, so our goal was $1000 for each class. That’s about $33 for each student to raise.”

Ethan raised a whopping $802 dollars by cutting out movies and games on his iPad. I asked him how he achieved such a staggering sum. “We live in a safe neighbourhood where we all know each other, so I was allowed to visit the homes on my street and tell them about the orphanage and the media fast.”

Each classroom posted a thermometer chart, which the students enjoyed filling each day. One by one, the thermometer charts filled up. Still the funds kept coming in, so each class got another sheet to track the overflow.

Mr Peter McClenaghan, coordinator of the College’s biennial Uganda mission trip, was thrilled at the Year Fives’ success. “With such a good amount of money, we will be able to do so much, like provide furniture in school’s classrooms and books for the library we started there.” Here are some images from the 2015 trip to Uganda.

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Experiencing Mastery

The project provided a fantastic learning opportunity about mastering technology and monitoring screen-time. The students had to discover ways to fill the void left by screens and overcome the uncomfortable niggles of boredom. All of the students found the exercise challenging; non-fasting siblings made it tougher.

“It was really hard one day when I was sick. My brother and sister were watching TV, but I had to read a book. I like reading so it was okay, but I got tired of reading after a while,” Charlotte said.

Giving up TV, Netflix, and computer activities was “quite tricky” for Amelie. “My brother kept watching TV, and it was tempting. Once I sat down at the computer out of habit, but I stopped myself.”

Teaching Opportunity

The teachers designed a homework sheet to increase the chances of success and to help the students reflect. It listed three categories of alternative activities: Physical, Family, and Chores. Each day, the students got to select one activity from each column.

Amelie was excited to tell me about her choices. “My little sister and I did a dance performance for the family, which was fun. And I did the dishes and read to my little sister.”

Zachary found it easier when he was able to convince his non-fasting sister to play with him. “I spent lots of time with my chickens. It was good because they finally got used to me and let me pick them up.” Zac gave up restaurant food, donated his pocket money, and did extra jobs.

Charlotte enjoyed the extra time to play with her guinea pigs. “I also went swimming. That’s something you can’t do with a tablet!”

Amelie read lots of books to her little sister. Ethan spent more time with his brother and sister.

As a result of the Year 5 media fast, younger siblings and pets felt the love!

Kids’ Insights

Charlotte admitted her screen activities were causing her to miss out and make her unhappy. “Screens affect my mood. When I’m playing on my tablet, I think I’m happy and having fun, but when mum tells me it’s time to get off, I get cranky and unhappy.” What a valuable insight for a young person to gain. She was reflective about the impact of too much screen-time. “You miss out on family time, and you begin to think it’s the only fun thing to do.”

Charlotte is planning non-electronic activities for the upcoming Christmas holidays. “I think I’ll use my birthday money to buy some craft supplies so I don’t waste too much time on my tablet. Sometimes, Mum does this thing called ‘No-Screen-Sunday’ so we get a break from technology at least once a week.” Charlotte’s mum gets a shiny gold star from e-Quipped!

Amelie shared a great strategy to remind herself about monitoring her screen-time. “I put a picture of my guinea pigs on the computer screen. That way, when I see them, I remember I should play with them instead.”

Out of the mouths of babes…

“Over in Uganda, the kids have fun without technology. I think I can too!” —Amelie.

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Phone image by David Grandmougin, CC0