Monday, January 22, 2007

Change The World - One Water Buffalo At A Time

Thanks once again to Christian Long, please take a look at this video.

Now, this is worth watching and thinking about in and of itself. But I just can't help noticing the power, the speed and the agility of the read/write web in all of this. This particular story got started on December 26th with this post by Philip Greenspun.
A friend got a water buffalo for Christmas from her dad. She won’t actually take delivery of the animal. The Web page says that it will be given to a family in Asia. If you read the fine print on the page, however, it turns out that there is no actual buffalo and no actual family and you won’t get a photo of your family and your buffalo.
It was noticed on December 28th by a concert violinist from the United States who is now living in China, who blogged about it on January 3rd.
I went and asked some local farmers in Chuxiong, China (where I currently live) what they thought about receiving a water buffalo as a gift, and they said it would be “zui hao de liwu”, or “the best gift.” Phil asked if I could find a way to give an actual water buffalo to an actual farmer in need, so his gift wouldn’t just be symbolic. I think I can!
By January 7th the water buffalo had been purchased and delivered to a family in China by the violinist. By January 16th, the violinist posted the video I linked to above. By January 19th,
in just about 48 hours, we’ve had people contact us wanting to fly to China to give a gift of some sort themselves, we’ve had book offers, thousands of people have already viewed the movie, people want to donate more water buffalos . . .
That's 24 days start to finish. (Not that the story - or the good that's coming out of it - is actually finished, but this part of it is finished.) Now, how are we preparing our students to live, learn, love, work, and hope in such a world? NCLB help me, but how is this being addressed in our classrooms?

I know some folks will fail to see the relevance in this, and will talk about standards and curriculum and mandated testing. But I guess I don't see how this could be any more relevant - this is life in the 21st century (ironically demonstrated by very non-21st century water buffalo cultivation). This is 12 days from problem to solution, and 24 days from problem to Internet-viral-movie-extended solution that may impact hundreds or thousands. Shouldn't we be teaching kids about this stuff? Can't we address the curriculum and standards in ways like this? Shouldn't we be helping prepare them to be really good at using these tools in both their professional and personal lives to impact the world around them? Shouldn't we be helping prepare our students to change the world?


  1. Amazing. Thank you so much for sharing. And you're right . . . there are so many lessons to be learned from this - not of which have anything to do with NCLB.

    This reminds me of Heifer International and the book _Beatrice's Goat_.

  2. Karl,
    Once again you bring incredible insight, engagement and empathy into your teaching. I want my kids to go to your high school where they can experience this kind of teaching first hand!
    You are a truly impressive educator.

  3. Besides making me cry, what a wonderful video. The connectivity of the web is so truly amazing. I plan to show this to my students.There is so much power in one little video.

  4. If this truly is our world, shouldn't the core values of Arapahoe be to push students to "live, learn, love, work, and hope in such a world?" And, even if that wasn't feasible, could we create a class or exit project where the only "assignment" was to change the world? Like Pay It Forward...think of a plan to change the world and put it into action.

  5. When I went to high school it was a requirement that all sophomores participate in Students Out Serving (SOS). I did my volunteer work at a Denver Broncos game selling food. Now I do not think that my volunteer time, nor those of others really made a difference. Should we require charitable service as part of graduation? I think so, as long as it is really making a difference and not just for credits.

  6. I just watched the water buffalo movie and I'll show it in my 4th grade class today. This is an excellent example of real, broad-based learning, many lessons at once. I'm taking ten 4th grade kids to Taiwan this summer. and the water buffalo story is yet another way to help them focus on the significance of their journey. -- Terry - --

  7. Karl! There's the focus for my seniors' pay it forward, Brave New World project: what's going to be YOUR water buffalo?

  8. I sit here in the quietness of my office and cry. What a powerful video. What a powerful idea. What an educator you are. I would love for you to come and speak at my school. Thank you for making me remember just how important my job is.