Bargell: Activists of the 5th grade |

Bargell: Activists of the 5th grade

by Cindy Bargell

A beloved childhood book in our household, “While You Were Sleeping,” weaves a wonderfully illustrated tale of all the fun things animals around the world do during a young child’s night of sleep. Mud season can be a sleepy time in Summit County, a break from the hectic machinations of ski season, providing some well deserved down-time for local businesses and workers alike. Not so for some Summit County residents, however. While it was mud season, they took care of a few things they had been pondering of late …

Several of them decided to organize a local human rights march, and raised funds and awareness for Youth for Human Rights. Others put their efforts into making the money needed to drill water wells in rural Cambodia, deciding it’s quite unacceptable that one child dies world-wide every 20 seconds from water born diseases. With the help of US Bank (which matched the funds raised) they contributed nearly $1,000 to the cause, enough for several wells. Still others threw their support behind a local teacher who later this month will walk 39 miles in the “walk to end breast cancer.” A few young men, with an interest in technology, were shocked to learn the amount of time teenagers spend either social networking or texting. They took the information to the high school, hanging posters to raise awareness.

There also was the food drive for the soldiers recently returning from military service in Iraq and Afghanistan. Several other individuals rallied around the Swan Center Outreach, the local horse rescue facility that provides education and therapy to people of all ages. Perhaps you caught the letters to the SDN editor on child labor (4/27) or equality in sports (5/3), written to make us all think, and take action. The writing didn’t stop locally. Letters went out to newspapers across the country, to congressmen and even to the president. Along the way these civic-minded folk managed to create websites, post petitions and distribute brochures.

Quite a legacy of accomplishments, all undertaken by some of our locals during the last couple of months. But, what’s even more startling is the fact the individuals responsible for all this work were Summit’s own fifth grade students from all over the county. Yep, a group of small, but mighty, 11-year-olds.

Their work was part of their Fifth Grade Exhibition, their final International Baccalaureate project before they depart elementary school. But don’t assume they stopped learning while they were out working to save the world. Quite the contrary. Instead, their actions were rooted in the extensive research they completed on topics of current interest, too numerous to mention here. They were required to write annotated research papers and to present their work to fellow students and to the public. Using Glogster, Prezi, Animoto, Google and more, they told their stories – many times over.

Even thinking about it all makes me tired.

After the projects were complete the students were asked to reflect on the entire process. It’s safe to say nearly all were relieved to be done. When asked what he learned, one young man sat silently for a moment. He then looked his teacher in the eye and said that before Exhibition he never would have believed he could have done all the things that were asked of him. But they all did – in extraordinary measure. And, they were proud of their efforts.

So, if you run into one of these youngsters, now taking a break and enjoying summer fun, give them a pat on the back or a high-five. A reminder that we’re impressed not only with what they achieved, but with what they now know they will be able to accomplish in the future.

“A small body of determined spirits fired by an unquenchable faith in their mission can alter the course of history.” Mahatma Gandhi

Cindy Bargell is a mom and lawyer that lives outside of Silverthorne and welcomes your comments at

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