University leaders help seventh-graders trade up merchandise to help needy

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When Rita Cochrane’s seventh-grade world geography students at David Lipscomb Middle School learned about the incredible difference Dr. Mohammad Yanus made in a poor Indian village simply by giving 64 cents to each woman in the village, they were amazed, but didn’t think it would really work in America.

Well, most of them thought that. But Collin Keith, a seventh-grader from Crieve Hall had heard his preacher at Antioch Church of Christ tell a story about a guy who started with a paper clip (less than 64 cents in value) and traded up to a house.

That guy was Kyle MacDonald, who started out with one red paper clip in July 2005 and continued to trade his item for more valuable merchandise until a year later he traded a role in a movie for a new home in Canada.

So Collin headed to class the next day to prove Cochrane wrong, and his information sparked an idea among his classmates.

What if they started with 64 cents and “traded up” until April 2009, when they could sell off whatever merchandise they have at that time and use the cash to carry on Dr. Yanus’ project, by giving out micro-loans to individuals in Third World nations.

With just 64 cents each, a group of Bangladesh women were able to purchase materials to make dresses and garments to sell. Then the money from those sales funded greater sales, until the entire village was in stable economic conditions, said Cochrane, who is guiding the students in the Banding Together for a Better World Project.

Back in October Cochrane showed her students a video on Dr. Yanus’ 64-cent project in Bangladesh, which served as the foundation for Grameen Bank, which now provides micro-loans around the world. Yanus and the bank were awarded a Nobel Prize in 2006.

The students received their 64 cent loan from Dr. Jimmy Thomas, special assistant to the president of Lipscomb University. They took their 64 cents and bought a handful of rubber bands from the middle school secretary. The students got various donations of rubber bands from other students, teachers, the middle school principal and the Lipscomb University president.

So on Nov. 3, the students posted their blog at and displayed their healthy rubber band ball, sporting purple and gold rubber bands.

By Nov. 7 they had their first offer, from a friendly source. In an effort to keep the historic rubber band ball in the Lipscomb archives, Thomas decided to offer a brand new iPod Nano, selling for retails at $149.

And that’s what the students have up on the blog as of this week. On Friday, Nov. 14, they will all meet, discuss the offers that have come in and vote on whether to accept a current offer or defer offers for a week and see what comes in between Nov. 17 and 21. each Friday will be the deadline day for offers on the latest item, Cochrane said.

This week there are already offers to trade the iPod for an older model Xbox, a Nintendo DS and Titans memorabilia.

Update: On Friday, our class voted to accept the offer to trade our iPod nano for a $300 gift certificate for maid cleaning services. Wow! Right before holiday entertaining is the perfect time to have your home professionally cleaned. Check back on Monday for all the details and pictures of this trade. Be looking for what you can offer as a trade-up for this great gift. Happy Trades!
Mrs. Cochrane's 7th Grade Class

“The kids are already talking about monetary value versus demand,” said Cochrane, and they are really excited about the project, asking to check for comments on the blog every day.

Each student has received two business cards to hand out to enhance their efforts to spread the word to potential traders.

“I’ve already delivered five business cards,” said Collin, who thinks that Thomas “really went over the top” with his trade.

Emma Paul, of Brentwood, said she plans to hand out her business cards to extended family over Thanksgiving. “I think people should know that if you work hard and start with something small, that eventually it can get bigger,” she said.

Case in point: MacDonald traded his one red paperclip for a fish pen, then a doorknob, then one Coleman stove, then a generator, then one instant party, then a famous skidoo, then one trip to Yahk, then a 1995 Ford Cube Van, then a recording contract, then one year in Pheonix, then one afternoon spent with Alice Cooper, then one KISS snowglobe, then one role in a movie, and then a house in Kipling Saskatchewan.

If you would like to make an offer, e-mail Rita Cochrane at:

Log onto to follow the students’ trading up project and see what’s available each week.