Isabel is a third-grade student here at The Orchard School. She enjoys swimming, playing outside, and making friendship bracelets with her friends. However, her greatest passion is simply being a student—thriving off new knowledge to make a difference in the world. “I think this world could be a little bit more peaceful,” Isabel said.” We still have some things we don’t agree on in our country and I want to help make the world a better place.”
Isabel gained this new perspective last year when her second-grade class began their study of Changemakers. Isabel chose to read “I Am Malala,” by Malala Yousafzai, the youngest recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize and a Pakistani advocate for girls’ education and women’s equality. This sparked Isabel’s interest and her second-grade teacher, Erica Christie, could see the light in her eyes. “Researching Malala really became a personal passion for Isabel,” Christie said. “She was so inspired and couldn’t believe how young Malala was, which made Isabel feel like she was also capable of creating change.”
Malala was the only thing on Isabel’s mind. She came to school eager to share new information with classmates and teachers, and would jump at the chance to show Malala interviews on YouTube to anyone willing during technology class. She also donates her birthday money to the Malala Fund—an organization working to give every girl 12 years of free, safe, quality education.
She didn’t realize it at the time, but Isabel found her role model.
On September 4, 2017, Isabel’s family took her to DePauw University where they waited in line for more than three hours to see Malala deliver a lecture. With a radiant smile, Isabel described the moments leading up to Malala taking the stage. “It was the best day of my life. My heart was pounding and I was so excited,” Isabel said. “Also, because I’m so young, I think it was a great opportunity for me to experience seeing a Nobel Peace Prize winner.”
Isabel’s parents were well aware of the change happening in their daughter and are forever grateful for Orchard’s child-centered curriculum. “After seeing Isabel’s enthusiasm for Malala Yousafzai, Orchard teachers took her interest from the second-grade Changemakers project and encouraged her to build on it,” Kristy and Mario said.
Even though third-grade isn’t studying Changemakers this year, Isabel’s teacher, Debbie Underwood, worked this into the curriculum for Isabel. “I really wanted her to be able to share her connection from last year with our current class,” Underwood said. “This is the kind of homework I want students to be doing; extend, go further, and deeper on what catches their interest in school.”
Mrs. Underwood asked Isabel to read even more about Malala and prepare a speech to inform her third-grade classmates. Watching Isabel’s confidence as she addressed her peers was inspiring. “Malala really motivates me to want to make a difference. We are little kids, but because of people like Malala, our voices are stronger,” she said. “She stood up for girls’ education and I really love that because I also love school so much. I don’t know where I would be without school.”
Orchard’s ability to differentiate instruction and connect with students’ passions, wants, and needs creates a true love of learning. “Orchard teachers furthered our daughter’s learning by encouraging her to research deeper and present a speech on what she learned,” Kristy and Mario said. “Orchard has made our daughter a competent learner by providing her with many different opportunities for inquisitive learning.” Learn more about progressive education.