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First graders making a difference

November 19, 2012

From left, Max Varner, Amber Barber, Samanta Calzada, and Camden Hickman discuss their thinking and wonder about what happens next with Hurricane Sandy. Photo provided

BREMEN — Sometimes one person’s misfortune can be a complete stranger’s lesson, and that’s a fact realized by first grade educators at Bremen Elementary-Middle School. There, the efforts of a missions project are growing fast as the children’s natural compassion is taking over.
Audra Thomas-Blasio explained that it all began during a conversation around the lunch table shortly after Hurricane Sandy struck the east coast. “The first grade team was talking about it and how our  students were asking questions,” she said. “We wondered how we could expand on our students’ interest and implement an inquiry-based, problem-based, learning project for first grade that focused on Hurricane Sandy.”
This her seventh year teaching Bremen students, Thomas-Blasio shared with the entire first grade a PowerPoint presentation she put together from a YouTube posting from her friend Jen Lenese, who lives in Ohio and works for the Humane Society Animal Rescue — an organization there that provides service when there is a natural disaster that affects the animal population.
“They (students) talked in groups about what they felt and what they were seeing,” Thomas-Blasio explained. “However, after viewing the short video clip of the Animal Rescue Team — their true emotions and compassion erupted. I had a class full of pure, innocent first graders sobbing at the realization that people and animals were truly affected by this Hurricane. It was an overwhelming experience for me to see the genuine heartbreak of my kids and their true desire to want to help.”
And with their teachers’ support, the students developed a plan to raise money to do what they could to give toward the cause. The first grade team approached Principal Larry Yelaska and discussed with him the best way to go about having a sale that would be most effective without disrupting the flow of the school day.
“Truly the children are learning and talking a lot about this,” said fellow first grade educator Rhonda McIntyre. “They are excited and focused to do all that they can to support the east coast communities. … One class is brainstorming ways to protect the community for future flooding; one class is giving up their snacks to use for the bake sale; and another class is brainstorming what they know about hurricanes and learning new things.”
The students sold baked goods and snacks (that their parents baked and package) and non-food items that they made, to the high school and middle school students during their lunch periods Friday, Nov. 16. All the money earned will be sent to the Humane Society and World Compassion Network.
Thomas-Blasio said the children and staff collectively were excited about helping those affected by the Hurricane in whatever way they can.
“I’m so impressed with our students’ ideas and interest in helping,” she explained. “Children need to be given the opportunity to express their compassion for others and their understanding that life truly is about loving one another. When given this opportunity, they can show the world what a difference they can make and how others can learn from them to express mutual respect, a caring community, and high expectations.”

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