Young Samaritans: Elementary students work to enhance community through various service projects

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At Noblesville Schools, student volunteerism and community service efforts aren’t uncommon. From various clubs and organizations at the high school aimed at making the world a better place, to students volunteering at animal shelters and food pantries, the efforts can be seen around the city.

But in the district’s elementary schools, work to help others is progressing rapidly, with students stepping up with the help of school leadership and their teachers to tackle a problem or simply do something nice.

One example is Ginny Bushyeager’s third-grade class at Promise Road Elementary, which this winter began taking time in the evenings to visit with senior citizens at Prairie Lakes Health Campus in Noblesville.

From left, student Nathan Fundenberger, Prairie Lakes resident Max, teacher Ginny Bushyeager, student Abby Hayes and Promise Road Elementary Principal Kelly Treinen visit Prairie Lakes Health Campus in Noblesville.

“In November, we were talking about random acts of kindness, and it kind of came to this,” Bushyeager said. “We talked about things that we could do, and we realized there are a lot of things you can do to make a difference in this world that don’t cost money. One of the students came up with volunteering at a nursing home or assisted living facility. So, I made a phone call.”

Since then, groups from the class have visited the assisted living facility off 146th Street and Cumberland Road twice – once in December 2018 and again in mid-February.

“The first time we came, we brought a bunch of snacks and things like that and played games with the residents,” Bushyeager said.

When the group visited in February, students rewrote traditional fairytales to add a twist, and then shared the stories with the residents.

Promise Road Elementary School’s principal, Kelly Treinen, said she isn’t surprised to see Bushyeager’s class doing something heartfelt to give back in the community.

“We encourage all of our students to complete at least one hour of community service, but (Bushyeager) just models community service,” Treinen said. “We have opportunities that our parent-teacher organization helps us set up, but she has really taken it on her own to get her students out in the community and pay it forward. We all encourage (community service), but she’s made it happen for her kids.”

Ann Miller, life enrichment director at Prairie Lakes Health Campus, sees the visits from a different side.

“It’s really a great experience for our residents to have the chance to connect with a younger generation,” she said. “They love kids, and it can remind them of their own children and grandchildren. They love learning from them and just listening to them. They connected instantly, and I love that they want to keep coming back.”

Bushyeager said she plans to visit Prairie Lakes at least two more times before the end of the school year.

Students from Hinkle Creek Elementary show off the results of their food-drive efforts. (Submitted photo)

WHAT’S HAPPENING AT OTHER SCHOOLS?

Hazel Dell Elementary

Near the district’s western boundary, students at Hazel Dell Elementary are taking part in a national movement, the Great Kindness Challenge.

“Since it’s never too early to practice kindness and create a culture of caring, we devoted one week to perform as many acts of kindness as possible,” said Karen Carter, principal at Hazel Dell Elementary. “Throughout this week, students and staff performed acts of kindness that ranged from writing kind notes and encouragement (from Noblesville all the way to Oxford, Miss.), to giving small treats and tokens of appreciation to helping others in a variety of ways. Students also demonstrated caring outside of school by helping neighbors and family members and doing service projects in the community. We also promoted and challenged families to participate and post their acts of kindness online.”

Hinkle Creek Elementary

At Hinkle Creek Elementary, Principal Jack Lawrence said the school’s unofficial motto is “Choose Kindness,” and that kindness can be seen with student-led food drives and projects centered around Fueled for School, a weekend meal-pack program created by Hinkle Creek staff that benefits more than 350 kids in Hamilton County.

“Fueled for School provides each Noblesville elementary school with weekend meal packs for those that need it,” Lawrence said. “Our staff, students and families serve at the pantry on a weekly basis. Jobs include shopping, packing, meal planning, intake, fundraising, foodraising and meal delivery. Some classes have used Fueled for School as a catalyst for their ‘Fired Up To Take Action’ unit – a study of social issues. This unit digs into social-economic class, social justice/injustice, food insecurity and more.”

Noble Crossing Elementary

At Noble Crossing Elementary, students are working to significantly reduce food waste in the school’s cafeteria.

Students are completing food waste audits in the cafeteria. The purpose of this project is to reduce food waste in hopes of becoming a zero-waste cafeteria,” said Pat Haney, principal at Noble Crossing. “To work toward this goal, we began participating in the Food Rescue project last school year. We have a group of fourth-grade Food Rescue Warriors who track our food items rescued and track data on the environmental impact. This team is conducting food-waste audits during third-grade lunch periods. They use five-gallon buckets to sort and collect food waste. Then they weigh the buckets to see how many pounds of food waste have been collected.”

North Elementary

At North Elementary in downtown Noblesville, students have created a community garden.

“Students planted, tilled and harvested through the summer,” said Robert Lugo, principal at North Elementary. “Community members also participated in pulling weeds, watering and harvesting. Fresh vegetables were available to not only North (Elementary) families but also to those who live around our school. Students are learning the importance of healthy food, dedication to the environment and our community.”

Stony Creek Elementary

Bethany Lambert’s third-grade class at Stony Creek Elementary recently completed a project with the Humane Society for Hamilton County, helping animals get adopted. Lambert has done this project for the past two years.

“Once I get the (animal adoption) information from (HSHC), I have my third-graders write persuasive letters to potential adopters about why these animals should be adopted,” Lambert said. “My students were extremely engaged in this project. From the minute I mentioned the project, they were so excited about writing letters. They loved getting involved with the Humane Society and knowing that they might help get animals a new home.”

Last year, all 12 animals that had letters written about them were adopted within one month.

White River Elementary

At White River Elementary, student have started a Small Moments club, which focuses on making the school and community a better place.

“The first half of the school year, the club has concentrated on school initiatives,” said Calie VanDermark, principal at White River Elementary. “Like painting bathroom walls with encouraging words, leaving kind notes for others in library books and showing appreciation for teachers. The rest of the year they will begin efforts on giving back to the community.” 

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