Hazel Dell second graders are first-rate volunteers Standing outside Denise Brinster’s second-grade classroom, Hazel Dell student Sarah Payne clutched a fleece blanket that would be donated to a stray dog at the Humane Society for Southwest Washington (HSSW). “I like animals. They need food and stuff. I asked my mom to get a blanket because the dog could be cold or get thorns caught in his fur,” she explained.
Altruism may be a developing quality for many elementary school children, but thanks to Brinster, it’s now at the forefront of 25 young minds due to a recent community-engagement unit focused on volunteerism.
The idea stemmed from a project that required Brinster to show evidence of students being impacted through their learning experience. She considered focusing on a number of other community groups before settling on HSSW. “Connie Sherrard, our community resource person, thought the animal shelter would be a good choice. I thought so too as my experience with children has shown they are very interested and compassionate about animals,” Brinster said.
Volunteers give their time, money and/or services, she told the class. Students then spent several weeks learning how to give all three on behalf of the animals and their human caretakers at HSSW.
The first week, the students drafted a list of chores, beyond their normal duties, that they could perform around their households and in the classroom. Emptying the dishwasher, cleaning out the car and taking in the groceries were all projects that the second graders volunteered to tackle. Completing chores earned tokens from Brinster that could be used to purchase dog and cat food and treats from a pop-up pet shop, funded by a Hazel Dell family.
A class-wide change drive the second week netted funds for the Humane Society. But the class still wanted to do more. Students and families suggested additional ways to contribute, such as a silent auction in which the students purchased each other’s artwork. All told, the amount raised for HSSW was $61.25. The class also decorated 24 collars, filled roughly 50 care packages for the pets and created thank-you gifts for the shelter’s 300 volunteers.
“It was truly an exciting project for the children, and it grew beyond my expectations,” Brinster said.
On Feb. 7, the class presented the funds and gifts to a grateful HSSW Customer Service Manager Shonda Feather; volunteer Shannon Boyd; and Brandy, a 7-year-old German shepherd mix, who politely sniffed students’ hands.
“Now the students know what being a volunteer is all about. They know how hard the Humane Society works,” said Brinster.
And now it’s clear how great of an impact on their community a class of determined and community-minded second graders, under the guidance of an innovative teacher, can make, too.