14.02.2024 Educator Insights Student Success Story

“Buy a plate to help a family fill theirs this Christmas.”

Need some meaningful social action inspiration for your classes? Read our case study on Year 8 students at Willows High School in Cardiff, who decided to design and sell Christmas Eve plates ‘to help families fill theirs for Christmas!

Willows High School in Cardiff are in their fourth year of running the First Give programme, led by the Lead Teacher, Andrew Roberts. In their Genius Hour lessons, year 8 start with the First Give Programme in the autumn term and work in their classes to identify social issues in their communities, research local charities that work to support or tackle that issue and then engage in social action, practical action to make a positive change to that issue. 

This academic year, Year 8 at Willows High have absolutely run with their social action and engaged in some really unique and creative ideas. Whilst scrolling on X, I saw one piece of social action from class 8MA in aid of their chosen class charity, Cardiff Foodbank, that really caught my eye…and this was their Christmas eve plates!  

‘Buy a plate to help a family fill theirs this Christmas’ was their tagline and instantly I could feel the connection they had with their charity and this social issue. Miss Charles, 8MA’s form tutor told me that the students voted to support Cardiff Foodbank because they were very passionate about wanting to alleviate food poverty in the area. Willows has a free school meal percentage of 49%, so this is clearly a cause close to the hearts of the community. 

Cardiff Foodbank’s alarming recent statistics show that they have provided 19,253emergency food parcelsto people who couldn’t afford the essentials in Cardiff over the last year – and7,639 (40%) of these went to children. This represents a 52% increase and is the highest number of food parcels they’ve distributed to clients. 

Charity Connections 

Liz from Cardiff Foodbank came into the school to meet the class and told the students all about the brilliant work that the foodbank do. Miss Charles said the session was very hands on and interactive, with Liz giving the students ‘cash’ as an income, they started to learn about expenses and budgeting, which really highlighted to them the struggles that many adults face. They talked about social action ideas, including a food drive and also told Liz about the Christmas eve plates idea, which was something they came up with all by themselves! 

This year the First Give Central team have really pushed for social action to be creative and for the students to bridge the gap between the social issue they identify and the action they take. The students at Willows have really risen to the occasion, centring awareness raising in their social action activities, highlighting the prevalence of food insecurity in their local community, and demonstrated their care and compassion to really make a difference. 

The class also had the opportunity to visit the Cardiff Foodbank warehouse, which was only a short distance away from the school and the experience of seeing what goes into the process, including the organisation and preparation really opened their eyes. Liz took the time to lay out the contents of a typical 3 day food parcel for the students to see. 

I had a call with Liz, the Strategic Manager at Cardiff Foodbank and Liz reflected on how impressed she was regarding the change in the students between the lesson she had delivered and the subsequent warehouse visit. “They had worked hard, were prepared, came with their cameras because they wanted to record their experience, and brought their food donations (over 100kg and more still to come!).” Liz said 

“They’d come prepared with questions, and not just about the types of food in a foodbank parcel, but about the need in the area, and what the foodbank does day-to-day.” Liz felt that the students had really grasped what the foodbank’s mission is. 

Social Action 

When reflecting on the social action, Miss Charles said “Students came up with a few different ideas relating to Christmas as it is the festive season, inspired by their younger siblings, students created hot chocolate cones, reindeer food and Santa keys as well as the plates. They have worked really hard to create these plates and their artistic efforts are amazing. It has been like a factory line some nights after school with different members of the class drawing, wrapping, delivering etc.” 

Highlighting the significant impact the class have had, Miss Charles said, “We have raised over £100 so far. Our customers include teachers, parents and the general public as our enterprise group in school kindly took some of their products to a few Christmas markets with them.” 

Showing the importance of community connections the students even had custom from someone from Twitter… the power of social media! 

So, did the students enjoy it? F.E, a student in 8MA said ‘I really enjoyed creating the plates as I love art. I think when families are using the plates over Christmas, they will be reminded of people who maybe won’t be having such a lovely Christmas due to lack of money/home etc. It was also a good way of raising money to help people’. 

We at First Give know that schools are the heart of our communities and if we have young people in these communities who are able to donate, give their time and learn about the issues that people face in the wider communities, like the students at Willows, then this will make such a difference. I was delighted to hear about the students’ plans to continue to work with Cardiff Foodbank and engage in further social action for them beyond the First Give Programme, starting with an annual foodbank donation…you might even see their plates on Etsy soon!