SLS kindergarten community service project shows lots of heart

SONGO LOCKS SWEETHEARTS: From left to right, Jennessa Gaston, Ella Martin, and Haily were among the children who made and sold Valentines hearts for 10 cents each to raise $296 for Harvest Hills Animal Shelter. While doing the community service project, the kindergarten students — who attend Songo Locks Elementary School — engaged in arithmetic and writing plus got a daily dose of arts and crafts. (De Busk Photo)

SONGO LOCKS SWEETHEARTS: From left to right, Jennessa Gaston, Ella Martin, and Haily were among the children who made and sold Valentines hearts for 10 cents each to raise $296 for Harvest Hills Animal Shelter. While doing the community service project, the kindergarten students — who attend Songo Locks Elementary School — engaged in arithmetic and writing plus got a daily dose of arts and crafts. (De Busk Photo)

By Dawn De Busk

Staff Writer

NAPLES — Valentine’s Day might be the time that dog lovers smooch their pooch.

Or, it could be the day to surprise your main squeeze with a four-legged companion.

For local kindergarten students, the holiday associated with hearts was a great excuse to raise almost $300 for a nearby animal shelter.

Last Friday, Songo Locks Elementary School students from two combined kindergarten classes handed a check for $296 over to Harvest Hills Animal Shelter. That was after a month of making Valentine cards, and selling them for 10 cents each.

“Every day, they worked on making more Valentine cards,” said Sue Shea, one of the kindergarten teachers.

According to kindergarten teacher Janice Shanks, “We probably made 2,000 or more.”

Shanks headed up similar fundraising projects with her kindergarten classes in the past. No matter the cause, the project is an activity in which this age group loves to participate.

“It was pretty fun. We got to decorate the hearts and stuff. The most fun thing was we could do two hearts — a big one and a little one,” six-year-old Jennessa Gaston said.

The two female students agreed they liked putting glitter on the art project.

“Glitter, yeah. It was fun. Gluing the hearts on was fun,” five-year-old Ella Martin said, adding, “it felt good” to be raising money for animals living in the shelter.

While the components of community service and artistic endeavors might be obvious, the class is also on task with academic milestones.

In other words, the children hone their skills in reading, writing and arithmetic.

According to Shanks, a requirement in kindergarten is to learn how to count by 5s and 10s. So selling the cards for 10 cents provided them with a hands-on math lesson.

After a month of making Valentines cards and selling them for 10 cents each, two kindergarten classes raised $296 to help out animals. On Friday, the students, who attend Songo Locks Elementary School, presented a check to Joan McBurnie, the executive director of Harvest Hills Animal Shelter. (De Busk Photo)

After a month of making Valentines cards and selling them for 10 cents each, two kindergarten classes raised $296 to help out animals. On Friday, the students, who attend Songo Locks Elementary School, presented a check to Joan McBurnie, the executive director of Harvest Hills Animal Shelter. (De Busk Photo)

“It is a lot of work and it takes a lot of paper, but it helps them to learn coins. Counting the dimes and nickels and pennies is good practice. They have to know how to count by 1s, 5s and 10s,” Shanks said.

“They like to pretend it is a store” when people purchase the fundraising Valentines. Older students — who were once in Shank’s kindergarten class — stop into the classroom with their money and encouraging words.

Also, the children engaged in writing when they designed the posters, which were displayed throughout the school. “We integrate math, reading, writing, and community service,” Shanks said.

Community service projects have played out in Shanks’ classrooms. She said this is the third year her Songo Locks class has done this, and the first year at SLS that students from two classrooms took part in the project.

She previously taught in Mechanic Falls. Someone broke into and vandalized the town’s public library, which resulted in $1,000 damage. That was when the idea of selling heart cards started.

“We raised $800 for the library. The whole school got into it,” Shanks said.

Three years ago, the Naples-based classroom did “Hearts for Haiti.” That was following the earthquake in Haiti, and the worldwide request for help.

“This year, I asked kids what we should do, and everyone loved Harvest Hills Animal Shelter,” she said.

“We talk about how we are trying to do something for someone else, not just for self, but for someone else,” Shanks said.

Students Serenity Knight and Jona King were among those who said they liked doing something for animals. “I felt happy, because I like to help animals. It was fun. I liked it a lot,” Knight, 6, said. “It was so much fun. My grammy helped raise money by buying more cards. She gave me $2 so I got 20.”

“We sold a lot. We made more every day,” she said.

King, also 6, agreed with the large quantity of cards they produced. “We made a lot,” King said. “One kid got 20.”

Shea remembers that exciting day. “Someone ordered $5 worth of cards, and it took a while to count up all of those. Then, they starting making more Valentine cards,” she said. “They wanted to sell the cards for only 10 cents each. I think they should have charged more because it was a lot of work.”

The shelter’s executive director, Joan McBurnie, was on hand Friday so the students could hand over the check.

“Thank you so much for all the hard work. Your artwork is superb,” McBurnie told the students.

“Painting them was fun,” kindergarten student King said. “I’m happy because we are helping the animals.”

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