On September 7, hundreds of little hands at Lawson Elementary School put down pencils and books and instead, put on gloves and went to work making meals for those in need of food.
Each year, students at Lawson participate in a service project with a local organization. This year, money was raised and meals were made for Meals from the Heartland, a Des Moines-based non-profit group that relies on volunteers to package meals for delivery to hungry people around the world.
This year’s service project ties in well with the school’s year-long goal to develop world-class character in each student. Assistant Principal Ken Turnis said the learning opportunities associated with the project went beyond preparing a dry meal.
“We kicked things off during our Pillar Pride week, and explained to students what they would be doing, who their meals were feeding, and where these packages would be sent,” Turnis said. “From there, teachers used the Meals from the Heartland website to show worldwide need, demonstrated how the dry meals made a complete meal for a family, and used math skills to calculate the cost per meal for different groups of people.”
It was during Pillar Pride week that students took a letter home that outlined the project and asked families to donate spare change or a few dollars to this effort. The response was nothing short of outstanding.
“We raised over $1,000,” Turnis said. “It’s by far the most money we’ve raised at Lawson.”
Classrooms pooled all the money collected, for a grand total of $1172.40. Each meal costs $.20, for an end result of about 5,800 meals.
Lawson Guidance Counselor Cathy Edmondson said the actual “doing” of the project resonates with students for many years to come.
“When the students had the opportunity to put the meals together, box them up, and see them sent off, it brings them to that next level in volunteering,” Edmundson said. “We’re giving them an experience to remember, and hopefully, draw upon in the future as they become more engaged in the community.”
Another aspect of the project was starting buddy classroom relationships. The school calls upon fifth graders to role model positive behaviors for youngsters. For this project, buddies stood side by side to work together.
Large buckets of rice, textured soy protein, and dried vegetables were lined up on cafeteria tables. Students donned hairnets and plastic gloves to measure out serving sizes, adjust the size of bags, seal the package, and pack it up to be shipped. The meals were formulated to be very nutritional and to be accepted by many cultures around the world
By the end of the day, Lawson students had made 5,862 meals. What’s more, said Edmondson, was the experience of volunteering for hundreds of elementary students.
“Teachers and students said this was the best project they’ve done,” Edmondson said. “The hands-on aspect of Meals from the Heartland and the many learning opportunities associated with this project made this a great experience for many.”