Fourth through sixth-grade students at the Fletcher Elementary school are lending a helping hand to some very unfortunate four-legged friends, and they’re learning a lot about supporting their community in the process.
Fifth and sixth-grade classes at the school have been working with the Hulbert Outdoor Center, an organization based in Fairlee that works with students to promote leadership and community involvement, as well as providing a way for students to give back. Members of the group have visited the school and the collaboration culminated in a community day at the school on June 2.
In May, students spent time in the classroom deciding on a non-profit community group they wanted to support. Their search for a cause led them to the Franklin County Animal Rescue, which is currently closed to the public due to financial difficulties but hoping to reopen soon.
Leading up to the community day event, students facilitated a school-wide competition to see which class could collect the most dog and cat treats, as well as materials to make animal beds and toys. Collectively, they gathered over 1,200 items. During community day, the fifth and sixth graders worked with their younger fourth-grade peers to use the collected materials to make a variety of dog- and cat-friendly items including beds and catnip toys. Their creations will be donated to the Franklin County Animal Rescue.
“The students are very passionate about animals and they wanted to help a community group that was struggling,” fifth-grade teacher Cassie Underwood said. “They knew that the animal rescue was shutting down temporarily, but hoping to reopen.”
Students also raised $500 to donate to the Franklin County Animal Rescue, and their donation was complemented by an additional $250 donation from the Hulbert Outdoor Center.
“It’s really nice to know that you are doing something for a real purpose,” fifth-grader Isaiah Burns said. “It felt great to stay focused on making the community a better place and to help us as students grow as people.”
“These kinds of projects are important because the fifth and sixth graders act as role models for the younger kids,” sixth-grader Jasmine Duncan said. “We can teach them to take care of their community so that when they are older they can step up and do a lot of good, too.”
“It gives them a place and a way to give back,” Underwood said. “It allows them to actually make a difference and demonstrate leadership skills.”
According to Nicholas Wood, Program Coordinator for the Hulbert Outdoor Center, “Projects like this are important for numerous reasons. Most importantly, it actively shows that students, who often feel powerless when it comes to making a difference in an adult world, that through their time and talents, they can make a difference. They can see a difference in their community following their projects.”
Of the Fletcher students, Wood noted their caring and creative spirit.
“The fact that students were able to gather over 1,000 items to convert into animal toys and beds in a mere four days was substantial,” Wood said. “The animal shelter is a great starting point when we think about ways to give back to the community and make a difference.”
“We learned a lot about helping others and what it means to be part of a community,” fifth-grader Maggie Nadeau said. “When you help out your community you get to know each other more and if something happens to you maybe they will have your back.”
“We got a lot done in a little amount of time,” fifth-grader Jack Tinker said. “Everyone worked together to do their job and in the end that made us stronger and the community stronger.”
“We are so very grateful for this outpouring of support,” Franklin County Animal Rescue Resource Committee Chairman Lydia Strider said. “Not only is this truly humbling for us but a great opportunity for us to help shape students into kind young adults.”
Strider emphasized that having students contribute to the shelter – both by donating funds and physical items – is a great opportunity for the children to learn the value of a dollar and how extensively their contributions can support the animals.
“There are so many wonderful non-profits and getting students involved with them early teaches kids how to remain active contributors in their community as they grow older,” Strider said.
“Before we left the school on Friday, one of the questions that students were answering was about what they can take away from this experience,” Wood said. “One student mentioned that is we could do all this for dogs and cats, imagine what we could accomplish for homeless and other people suffering. It was a touching thought from our perspective, a reaffirming prospect that students had those thoughts walking away.”
“Helping the animal rescue was an opportunity,” Burns said. “It taught me to continue to look for opportunities. I think there are ways to help people and animals that are all around us and we don’t usually see them or pay attention. We are changing that.”