OLDE SAWMILL ELEMENTARY SCHOOL
|Photo from Janet DiSilvestro|
For the fourth year, Olde Sawmill Elementary students are learning the importance of helping those in need through a year-long service learning project.
It’s called the Penny Harvest and it is a three-phase program from the organization See Kids Dream, which integrates community service into education.
This is the seventh year that See Kids Dream has been involved with central Ohio schools.
It’s grown from seven schools to now 40 schools, according to Laura Grindle, one of the co-founders of See Kids Dream and the director of programming.
“We wanted to give the opportunity to all kids to volunteer and get involved in their community so that is why we reached out to schools,” she said.
Grindle said the most important thing about the program is that kids have the ability to make decisions themselves.
“Student voice is such an important part of service learning. They get more engaged and excited about learning when they have a say in how the money is spent,” she said.
The Penny Harvest at Olde Sawmill started when students charted their ideas onto a "Symphony of Concerns" bulletin board that featured a musical instruments for each issue. Then they voted on issues that they felt were important in their community.
Next, the students spent four weeks raising money. The grade level that raised the most won a pizza party.
|Photo from Janet DiSilvestro|
Instead of doing fundraising projects, all the money came from students finding loose change, like in couch cushions, floor of the car, etc.
In the past three years the students have raised around $2,500 each year.
Janet DiSilvestro, Gifted Instruction Specialist at Olde Sawmill and LEAP teacher, said this year their goal is $3,000.
LEAP (Logic, Enrichment and Pursuit) is a class of identified fourth or fifth grade students who receive extended training in academic content and thinking skills. They must have scored at the 95th percentile or higher in their academic area of strength.
Students and parents were invited to Whetstone High School for a Purpose For Our Penny assembly on Dec. 10.
It was a kick-off of the research phase of the project and also a celebration of their fundraising efforts.
Non-profit organizations were invited to set up tables and talk with students.
This was a great opportunity for students to collect business cards and start initial inquiries about the organizations.
“During the event, parents came up and told me, ‘I had no idea my child could do this’ or ‘I had no idea my child was so passionate about this,’” Grindle said.
Starting in January, student leaders will research the various philanthropic organizations that address the problems that students have mentioned on the “Symphony of Concerns” bulletin board.
They will deeply research the issues and try to understand the factors causing the issues in their community.
Representatives from the organizations are then invited to come to the classroom and meet with students.
“This gives the students an opportunity to learn how to meet and greet, ask questions that are not already answered in the flyers and websites and how to take good notes as the person is being interviewed.” said DiSilvestro.
Grindle said that organizations are often impressed by the tough questions the kids ask them.
“The kids really want their money to make the most impact and so they aren’t afraid to ask lots of questions,” Grindle said.
The last phase of the Penny Harvest is to choose who to give the money to and how much they should receive. Every student in the school gets to vote on the one organization they want to give our money to.
“In the spring, we invite those winning organizations to our school and we have a school wide assembly to present our big checks to them. It is a very moving, amazing time and the students all feel such a part of the decision making process,” DiSilvestro said.
The assembly is organized by the students, which teaches them event planning and logistics skills.
Through this year long project, the students become community leaders- who just so happen to be children.
On May 20, there will be a Power of the Penny event where students can share with other community leaders what they have learned and work together to make a difference.
“Helping others,” Grindle said, “is just inherent in all of us, no matter what our age.”
I'm so impressed that elementary school-age children are doing such a mature project. We did a similar project in college where we chose a charity to donate money and volunteer hours to. It's a big process. I think this project sounds so beneficial and I was happy to give it some press.
Talking to Laura Grindle on the phone was a highlight of my day because she was just such a positive sounding woman and one of those people who reminds you that the world can be a good place.