Lesson: A few shoeless steps

Staff Writer
Columbus Parent
The painted feet of fifth-graders Kylie Correa and Emondrajah Webster help create a colorful footprint collage as they participate in the One Day Without Shoes campaign at Annehurst Elementary School Tuesday, April 29.

There is an old saying: "You can't really understand another person's experience unless you've walked a mile in their shoes."

Heather Freado, art teacher at Annehurst Elementary School, decided to teach her students that idea by having her fifth-graders take off their shoes for the day.

"It is something different and kind of weird," Freado said. The fifth-graders "are kind of excited because they are the only ones who get to do it and are also an example, because they are the oldest (in the elementary school)."

Tuesday, April 29 was the One Day Without Shoes national campaign hosted by the shoe company TOMS. Each year, the company promotes awareness about children's health and education by recruiting celebrities, activists and communities to go about daily activities without wearing shoes.

TOMS was established when creator Blake Mycoskie visited a village in Argentina in 2006. He saw that children could not afford shoes and how lack of footwear affected their health. To make a difference, Mycoskie donates a pair of shoes to someone in need with every pair purchased by a customer.

Freado became interested in the campaign after she saw a heart-wrenching photo of a man who made shoes out of water bottles to protect his feet. To teach her students about worldly perspectives in an artistic way, she has her fifth-graders participate in TOMS' campaign.

"As cheesy as it might sound, I want the students to understand they can change the world one step at a time," Freado said.

Students attended school with shoes on their feet and slipped them off when they entered the art room.

This is the third year Freado has had her class participate in the campaign, but the first year it rained, preventing her scheduled plan.

Freado typically leads students on a short walk from the school down Main Street. A parade of more than 50 fifth-graders usually walks on the concrete without shoes, feeling the ground and rocks rub against their feet and toes.

"I know it sounds like a crazy thing we're doing, but I hope they understand what it is like to live in someone else's shoes and have a different perspective in the world," Freado said.

Due to the unfortunate weather, Freado wanted to keep footprints and no-shoes in mind. Instead of dirtying their feet outside, students painted each others' feet in bright colors and walked across large sheets of paper to try to illustrate the idea in another way.

"I think it went well and I think that they got the idea," Freado said. "I am glad we were able to still do something that had to do with their feet."

Freado encouraged her students to spend the rest of the school day without wearing shoes. She hopes other kids will notice the fifth-graders' feet and her students will promote awareness and teach others about the campaign.

"For me as a teacher, I hope they remember they can make a difference," Freado said.