Nick Alton ’09, a teacher at Rossman Elementary School in Detroit Lakes, Minn., and his fourth-grade students recently had a Super (Bowl) Experience.
Alton and his students discovered that social media and charities could work together. They also learned that the the New Orleans Saints could be pretty cool – and children’s health in Minnesota is $200,000 richer because of it. But the story is Alton’s and he tells it best.
Guest contributor: Nick Alton ’09
Morning meetings have always been my favorite part of the school day. I rarely know what the subject will be about until the day before. I want that part of the day to be relevant to a real-life learning experience. Many times it is simply something that we need to improve on as a class (empathy, showing respect, or how to handle difficult conversations). Other times, we will look at situations that are happening around us and have a discussion about the particular topic.
A recent morning meeting happened to bring my class to the Super Bowl Experience and an opportunity to meet an NFL punter.
Rewind to a few Thursdays ago – the night before I had read a neat article about the New Orleans Saints punter, Thomas Morstead, in the Star Tribune. The article detailed the punter’s sportsmanship and character during and after the Vikings-Saints playoff game, and also talked about the money that was being raised by Minnesotans for his charity, What You Give Will Grow. So, Thursday morning, I brought it to the attention of my fourth-grade students during our morning meeting.
We read the article, watched a couple videos of Morstead thanking the people of Minnesota for contributing to his charity, and had a little discussion about his charity and where the money goes (pediatric care). All of a sudden, a student raised her hand stating, “We should help raise money for his foundation.” Without me being able to respond, three students scurried to their backpacks and within a minute we had $7 laying on my desk. The following day, we were up to $64.
I have to give my school district credit for being ahead of the curve. A little over a year ago, our district brought in George Couros, an advocate for social media outlets, to talk about the importance of social media and how to positively impact a school district culture as a whole. Our school leaders challenged its teachers to use different media tools to show the community all the fabulous things that are happening in our schools by simply adding the hashtag #DLSchools next to a picture or video.
Transition now to our Friday morning meeting, we have the $64 raised and I bring up the idea of tweeting to Morstead and thanking him for the lesson on sportsmanship that he taught us. We also wanted him to know that we did our part in helping his charity. The class totally bought in.
Before I go on, I believe that everyone should have one post/picture/video go viral in their lifetime. A) If it is a positive/uplifting post, it’s pretty cool to be part of it. B) It is amazing how many texts/phone calls/emails a person can get by posting a 30-second video. C) You will realize that you hope to never post anything that goes viral again!
Our video went viral. We had more than 250,000 views between Twitter and Facebook in the first day.
One thing led to another and Morstead reached out to me. He, along with the Minnesota Vikings organization, chartered my entire class (along with 20+ chaperones) to the Super Bowl Experience. The entire cost of the trip was covered.
To say the trip was awesome would be an understatement. The kids had the time of their lives. After taking full advantage of what the Super Bowl Experience had to offer, we met with Morstead for a little over an hour. What a standup guy! He thanked us, we thanked him – 12 students spoke to him about lessons they had taken away in the previous couple of weeks. Autographs, pictures – a surreal moment.
I have been asked by many how the trip was. It may sound cliché, but the pure joy of 24 fourth-graders for an entire day made this a top-five day in my life (marriage, a couple of kids, maybe a sporting event or two) – but this was up there! From the time we left our elementary school till we returned, it was a day everyone on that charter bus will never forget.
Editor’s note: In total, Vikings fans raised more than $200,000 to What You Give Will Grow, which Morstead donated to the Children’s Minnesota organization. Alton majored in elementary education and played for the Cobber football team from 2005 to 2008.