Hungry, Poor College Kids

“Forty percent of the people on our planet—more than 2.5 billion—now live in poverty, struggling to survive on less than $2 a day.
More people die from hunger each year than from AIDS, malaria, and tuberculosis combined.”

In a previous post I detailed how excited I was for my teaching demonstration in English Methods. This is what happened (in pictures!):

Maggie and I hosted an OxFam/Hunger Dinner. The purpose behind a Hunger Dinner is to expose world hunger and experience what 2.5 billion people experience day after day. The funny part? These girls had no idea what was coming.

Before class, I tweeted this:

They knew that Maggie would be doing her demonstration on Inquiry-Based Learning and I would present on Project-Based Learning. You should have seen their faces when they walked into the rearranged classroom:

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This is how the neatly-lined room normally looks like:

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This was written on the board when they walked into the room:

photo (4)Life isn’t fair…and neither is this.

They then picked one card from a partial deck we had. That card corresponded to another card in a certain part of the room.

For example, the KING card corresponded to another KING card at the table in the front of the room. A card like 5 of diamonds corresponded to the 5 of spades thrown on the floor. There were three options to be seated at: the floor, a bare table, or the table with fine linen and china.


  • You cannot speak to others outside of your group
  • Write in your writer’s notebook as the dinner proceeds. Record your thoughts, emotions, feelings throughout the process.

Once everyone found their seat, we served the food.

First up was the upper-class, seated at a table with candles, china, fine linen, wine flutes, the whole nine yards:

photo (5)These two ladies enjoyed a wonderful meal and quiet conversation while EVERYONE else watched them eat…awkward…

They were served cordon bleu over white rice with spinach and sparkling cider:

photo (12)By the way, Maggie made all the awesome food except the rice and beans that I “made.” And she also set this table. She is quite the chef and entertainer.

Next up was the middle class. They got a table, chair, plastic silverware, napkins, Dixie cups, and a pitcher with cold water. They were served white rice and black beans. Yum.

photo (14)Kali didn’t complain once and ate her rice and beans in peace.

And FINALLY. The poor kids. This group was the largest according to the world hunger stats. We had four lucky girls who had to sit on the floor.

photo (15)They were so happy to be there! Just joking.

They were served white rice on a paper plate with Dixie cups and a bowl of water (which I was told had a hair in it) and a ladle. They used their empty cups to scoop up their rice so they didn’t have to eat it with their fingers. Lindsey (right) demonstrates the technique. This group was the most rambunctious and they were dramatic and disgruntled. They sprawled out on the floor and questioned their bad luck. They even argued with each other. It was hilarious.

I did not foresee what happened next. The poor people started thinking. They went to the two upper-class ladies and started begging for food:

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They were good beggars and even got a bite of chicken. Maggie and I watched for several minutes before we told them they too would get their own in just a few minutes.

photo (6)They were much happier after that.

Here’s a better look at what Maggie made:

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They then had a several minutes to eat and reflect in their writer’s notebook:

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Then we watched Nickleback’s music video, If Everyone Cared.

photo (11)This is everyone watching the video at the candlelit table.

To conclude the Hunger Dinner portion of the presentation, Maggie wrote this on the board:

photo (7)Should we care? Can we all care?

She led an inquiry-based discussion about world hunger and other issues. Because we’re pre-service teachers we discussed the possibility of transforming the educational system. By the end of the discussion everyone developed a driving question or a thought they would like to further explore. Every person wrote their thesis statement on the whiteboard.

I then launched the project portion of the demonstration. I started the beginning stages of a student-drafted learning contract for the project. I handed out slips of paper that they were to use for their contract:

PBL Contract Example:

Your contract must include:

  • Thesis
  • Materials
  • Weekly check
  • Project
  • Presentation
  • Audience for presentation
  • Signature line for student (with date)
  • Signature line for teacher (with date)


Examples of weekly checks for understanding: Basically, how do you want to share your learning?

  • Written reflections
  • Letters to teacher, classmates
  • Self-evaluations
  • Teacher evaluations
  • Blogs
  • Wikis
  • Tweets
  • Article portfolio
  • Writer’s notebook

Be specific (amount of days, pages, minutes, posts, tweets, letters, etc.)

The rest of the time the girls worked to draft their first draft contract.

That was our demonstration.

After this presentation, I know I want my students to experience a hunger dinner. In a classroom I could use more time to develop the dinner before it happens and also spend more time on the follow-up. I know I’ve posted about how much I love Project-Based Learning (PBL) but I’ll say it again. I would love to setup an entire semester in which students would complete projects. The standards would still be covered but the students would learn how to collaborate, communicate, and think critically and truly take ownership in their own learning.