Last week as most of us prepared for Thanksgiving and a table of plenty, I had the pleasure of attending a Hunger Banquet with the students in our 9-12 Program. This is an event that takes place in the upper elementary program every three years, demonstrating that many people do not have enough to eat. This year, the statistic represented was that 60% of the world’s people barely have enough food to eat, 30% have just enough to survive, and 10% have plenty.
The teachers could simply share these statistics and discuss the problem of world hunger. However, they choose to provide an experience that will stay with the children for a long time to come; it makes an lasting impression. The children randomly choose a card as they enter the room and that card determines where they will sit. The children who are in the 10% have a full course meal at a beautifully set table; they have more than they can eat at one sitting. The rest of the room has a minimal amount of food to share. The staple this year was rice for 60%, and rice and beans for 30%. Children happily sat in their places and shared the food before them, eventually noticing that not everyone was eating the same thing. The three children at the big table got up at one point to share their food; they said that they felt guilty for having so much.
Some year’s classes have been quite vocal about the unfairness of this event; others more philosophical. This year they discussed the experience once it was over and the children were incredibly thoughtful about how they felt. Guilt was a strong feeling, as was injustice and the fact that the amount of food available is often a matter of where one is born. In the end the children got it. They recognized the fact that they do not worry about being fed or having enough to eat. They have choices and could look forward to spending Thanksgiving at a table that had more than could possibly be eaten in one sitting.
An alumna was visiting who had participated in the Hunger Banquet three years earlier. Her remarks are something to consider, “This was something I will remember forever.” When the experience was over she remarked that, “Today I realized that we have a choice not to like a certain food and that many people in the world don’t have that choice. They have to eat what they are given or be hungry because they have no other choices.” Opportunities such as this remind us all of why we are at Wilmington Montessori School; we provide opportunities for learning that last a lifetime and that help us all as we strive to make a difference in the world in which we live.