Ingeniously simple and remarkably versatile, the Penny Harvest is a student leadership and community-building program designed to thrive within the school day and grow year after year. The Penny Harvest requires three things that every community has: idle pennies, un-met community needs, and kids that care.
Each Penny Harvest school integrates the program to fit its unique community and address pressing needs. Common Cents collaborates with Penny Harvest Coaches at each school to guide and empower students to lead their school through the yearlong experience. Students drive the program activities while Penny Harvest Coaches use Penny Harvest tools to utilize their very own communities as learning-labs to bring classroom instruction to life and meet academic outcomes.
The Penny Harvest has four phases:
Gather Pennies – Create Community Connections
Starting in the fall, elementary and middle school students rally their parents, friends, and neighbors to gather idle pennies. The act of asking for contributions is the first step in building community through connections.
Student leaders engage and energize their peers in the Penny Harvest through class presentations, speaking at assemblies and role modeling their own penny collection, while teachers take advantage of our highly-regarded curriculum–a tool that easily aligns to core curriculum standards and meets outcomes. Through school-wide activities and curriculum connections like the Penny Olympics, Tally Rally and Wheel of Caring lesson, the entire school joins forces for one common goal: to meet the “25 Sack Challenge,” striving to fill 25 sacks of pennies, or 750 pounds!
Make Grants – Research, Identify and Address Community Needs
This phase activates the Philanthropy Roundtable where 10-15 student leaders are appointed to represent their school community. Student Leaders are responsible for deciding how to spend the school’s harvest funds through a enriching 8-12 week curriculum. Student leaders examine their communities and analyze needs and concerns. They define community, debate and prioritize the most pressing issues and determine which organizations can best alleviate those problems by speaking directly with experts in the field through site visits or in-school presentations. Students then make cash grants to those organizations with the pennies they collected earlier; a philanthropic practice that is often reserved for adults.
Take Action – Reach Out and Serve
Students take their philanthropy a step further by getting involved first hand. Students conceive and plan their own Neighborhood Service projects, sometimes using their pennies to fund these projects and other times by simply volunteering their time. From revitalizing public gardens to preparing food and supplies for families in need, students partner with experienced neighborhood groups to learn more about complex community problems and how to work together to solve them.
Building Legacy – Pass the torch of leadership
After months of intense study and decision making, students present grant checks to their chosen organizations at the year-end Check Award Ceremony and celebrate the year dedicated to service. It’s an exciting moment, and includes serious reflection on the school’s collective Penny Harvest accomplishments. One student concluded: “It sticks in my mind how as we sat on the floor and read letter after letter of sad stories. I couldn’t imagine how you could choose who to help, which is what we had to do.” Reflections like this reinforce learning, compel students to evaluate their accomplishments and generate creative ways to make the next harvest even heartier.