Happy to help

Photo by Jenny Kirk Park Side’s Innovative Learning Center students (from left) Janae Saur Gutierrez, Suzie Holland, Imogen Moriarty, Katelyn Moberg, Jessica Reyes, Stella Bresnahan and Keston Freese were among the students who were proud of the service learning project they recently collaborated on. Their efforts raised money for a library in Texas that suffered severe damage during Hurricane Harvey.

MARSHALL — Innovative Learning Center students recently learned a lot of different skills as they worked together on a service learning project recently at Park Side Elementary.

Under the guidance of teachers Sue Strautz (kindergarten), Jamie Brigger (first grade) and Karissa Jiskoot (second grade), the students decided to help raise funds for the Friends of the Library, Kingwood (FOLK), a library in Texas that suffered severe flood damage during Hurricane Harvey.

“I enjoyed it because I knew the library would be really happy because they’d have money to get new books,” second-grader Katelyn Moberg said. “I made some posters and we put them around the school that talked about the Kingwood Library in Texas. And I also made some tiles, so it was pretty fun.”

Second-grade student Imogen Moriarty said she was happy to help with the project.

“I made bucket signs,” Moriarty said. “The money will get sent for the library.”

Besides using their creativity and learning about empathy, the students also gained valuable academic and social skills along the way.

“I think it’s awesome because the kids are able to use their writing skills, reading skills — all of the standards that we’re trying hit — and do a project that will help other people,” Brigger said. “And they’re really passionate about it. That’s what I found.”

Brigger added that the process required that the K-2 students work together.

“They did a lot of work together, just coming up with ideas and implementing the whole process,” she said. “They came up with ideas that we would not have come up with as an adult. That’s what’s really neat about it. The service project also required them to communicate back and forth, to share their ideas and be a good listener.”

Strautz said the trio of teachers reached out to parents for ideas for this year’s service learning project.

“We emailed all the parents who have children in the ILC if they had an connection to anybody in Florida or Texas, who had any relatives or anybody at a school,” Strautz said. “One of the parents wrote back that they knew about this library that had lost everything in their children’s department. It wasn’t in a school, but it was at a public library.”

After brainstorming ideas, the students voted to make artwork to raise money for the library.

“They had other ideas, like a garage sale and lemonade stand, but they voted to do the artwork,” Strautz said. “They do a lot of voting. That’s because it’s their project, not ours.”

Students did not go out into the community for support for the project.

“They sold the artwork at conferences,” Strautz said. “They stood out there at the tables with their families and sold them for $1 or a donation.”

Fundraising buckets were also placed right outside the ILC doors.

“It was great,” she said. “It was fun watching them do their artwork. We all divided them up, so they crossed over grade levels. The students got to choose what they wanted to do.”

First-graders Keston Freese, Jessica Reyes and Stella Bresnahan took time to share what their role was and how they felt about the project.

“I got to make some tiles and make some snowflakes,” Reyes said. “I think the most special part is helping the hurricane victims.”

Freese said he thought it was a good project.

“I got to make snowflakes — those little things that have holes in them,” he said. “That was my favorite part. And it is special to help people in danger.”

Bresnahan said she also thought it was neat that it helped other people.

“That was fun,” she said. “I made tiles. I drew pretty colors.”

While all of the students worked on artwork at school, only some of them took the opportunity to create something at home as well.

“Everybody contributed,” Strautz said. “But some made clay pots, magnets and all sorts of other things at home, too.”

Kindergartner Janae Saur Gutierrez said she “chose to make snowflakes” at home. Kindergartner Suzie Holland shared that it was “nice to help other people” and that she enjoyed doing that.

Brigger pointed out that the project was “a good parent connection” for the three classrooms of students.

“The kids shared with their parents and the parents helped — some parents helped their child with crafts and home and they also volunteered at school,” she said.

Nearly all of the project was student-driven.

“They had to talk to (Park Side Principal) Mrs. (Darci) Love,” Strautz said. “They had to ask for permission to do this — can we sell items at school? And one of the second-graders, I believe, wrote the letter to the parents, asking them to volunteer, so they could figure out who was going to work (during conferences).”

The children raised just over $211 for the library in Texas.

“I think it’s good to learn to do things for others,” Strautz said. “Another thing we’re doing is we’re not exchanging gifts among students. We have never done that here in the ILC. We always do a food drive for the food shelf. Kids bring in canned good and things. We’ll be doing that again this year.”

Strautz said she also anticipates the students doing another service learning project this school year.

“Stay tuned,” she said.

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