ISY Learning Story

Sand is banned!

To be an agent of positive change is one of ISY’s Learner Outcomes stemming from ISY’s compassionate Mission and Vision. When Mr. Macheski asked his second grade students, “Do you see anything around school that we could take action on to be agents of positive change?”, he had no idea the direction this question would take his class.

This question got the second graders thinking about things they thought needed fixing in our school. They shared several ideas, from students being unkind to insects, to too much sand on the floors in the school, as well as several other thoughts. To narrow down their ideas and to find the problem they would take on, students answered a series of questions for each problem. This process helped them to come to the conclusion that too much sand in the hallways, classrooms and staircases is the problem they were going to take on.

In taking on the problem of sand, the work of the students can be explained in terms of the ISY Learning Cycle. The four stages of the ISY Learning Cycle – Investigation, Preparation, Action, and Demonstration – provide a structure for learning in every subject at every grade level and allows for the integration of service and design learning.


Mr. Macheski guided the students to ask more questions. Is the sand everywhere? Where is the sand? If we know where the sand is then we know which group of people have a lot of sand on their feet. The people with the sand on their feet are the people we need to help!

The momentum and excitement started building. They needed to find out where the most sand was in the school. They thought Ms. Kalaya, our custodian who works in the elementary school would be the person to ask. With a clipboard in hand and a map of the school the students went on a tour with Ms Kalaya and marked on their map where the most sand was found in the elementary school. They discovered the classrooms with lots of sand in and around their classroom were Pre-Kindergarten, Kindergarten, First and Second Grade.


Now that they had the information they needed, they had to figure out how to take action. Another brainstorming session took place. Of the several ideas they came up with, the students concluded they would create a place where the kids can clean the sand off their shoes from the playground before coming into the school and hallway areas.

Another brainstorming session brought the second graders to the conclusion that a shoe cleaning station would be the next step and, of course, criteria was set by the students and teacher. The shoe cleaning station must be by the sandbox, it has to hold a lot of brushes, it must be light and fairly easy to move (not too heavy), three sided, a simple design, cheap, it has to stand up, and it has to be the correct size (good for 4-10 year olds).


Mr. Macheski brought out the magnatiles and the students went to work experimenting with designs. Finally one was chosen that met all the criteria. Over the next few weeks our Maintenance team worked on following the students design and built the Shoe Cleaning Station.  While this was being done they designed a logo. Ms. Samia collaborated with Mr. Macheski and in art class they made their logo. Brushes and necessary materials were purchased.

Finally, the shoe cleaning station was completed and they could now educate the targeted classrooms on how to use the shoe cleaning station. How would they let the classes know this is important, and how and when will they teach the students how to use the station? The writing and brainstorming started again to create a presentation they could share with the targeted classrooms on how to use the shoe cleaning station. Every student had a part in presenting and teaching the students in other classrooms how to use the shoe cleaning station.


As the shoe cleaning station gets underway the second grade students will then be able to see how successful the station is and brainstorm adaptations that might need to be made along the way.

Would it have mattered if the children chose to take action on one of the other problems they saw? Would the learning have been any different? Probably not. The learning was not just about how to make a shoe cleaning station. It was also about the process of applying service and design learning principles to the students’ interests, skills and knowledge to make a positive difference.