The holiday season is often referred to as the “season of giving,” and PORTA Elementary’s second graders have had the opportunity to learn just what that means recently. The second grade team of Brent Davis, Darcy Hacke, Mary Kate Smith, and Stephanie Wankle put together something special this year to help the students understand and embrace giving.
The team explained they wanted to get away from the typical gift exchange at the grade school, noting the extra stress it puts on parents and guardians during an already busy time of the year, and because they wanted the students to see how grade schoolers—“little people”—could make a big difference by donating to charities.
Students began the unit by doing research about the various agencies in the area that help people in need. Smith details how her students began by reading the book, Wonder. For those who haven’t read it, Wonder, the New York Times book review says, is a story about Auggie, an unusual child, born with genetic abnormalities whose “facial disfigurations are so pronounced that people who see him for the first time do ‘that look-away thing.’” The book recounts Auggie’s journey to fit in to a society that, at first, doesn’t want to accept him. Smith’s students were so moved by the book, they decided to take the Children’s Craniofacial Association as their charity and raise money for it. More information on the association can be found at https://ccakids.org/.
All the teachers wanted to keep their giving local, and Hacke’s class opted for Helping Hands, an agency that, according to their website, “was founded 28 years ago in Springfield to address the problem of homelessness and help those with the threat of homelessness to build lives of stability, security, and hope,” More information about Helping Hands can be found at http://www.helpinghandsofspringfield.org/.
Another agency the second graders chose, and Smith emphasized that the children made the choice of agencies, St. John’s Hospital, had close ties to the classroom. Some of the children had actually been born there, and others had family who work at the facility.
Raising money to support the various agencies has added to what teachers fondly call the “Holiday Mayhem,” but the drive for donations has been quite successful. Wankle described a “change war” in which the classes went to “war” with each other to see who could bring in the most change.
The donations were made to the charitable organizations on Wednesday, right before the holiday break. When the students return to school in January, they will enjoy a trip to the Mason City cinema where they will view the film, Wonder, which was just released in November and stars Julia Roberts, Owen Wilson, and Jacob Tremblay.