Students at Haw Creek Elementary School were determined to spread holiday cheer this year, even amidst the uncertainty surrounding the world.
Each year, the school’s fifth-graders organize and participate in a service project, with the help of teachers, parents and administration. This year’s service project will benefit two local nursing homes in the county, The Oaks at Post Road and Oaks at Hampton.
PTO President Claire Smith said the group of parent volunteers worked closely with the students’ teachers and administration this year to organize a project that would bring smiles to the faces of residents at local nursing homes.
The students will be decorating stockings to donate to 180 residents, filling them with donated items like toothbrushes and toothpaste from Dental Town, along with holiday crafts like ornaments and picture frames that the kids will make. The students have also filmed a video of themselves singing holiday carols that Smith will be sending with the stockings.
The video features fifth grade students in their class shirts singing holiday tunes after an introduction from principal June Tribble. The students were all socially distanced and wearing masks.
“It really marks a holiday celebration like no other; it’s just all about the kids,” Tribble said.
The fifth-grade teachers were just as excited about the service project and allowed students to practice warming their vocal cords and learning lyrics in the classroom.
“They really knew those songs backward and forwards from all the practicing,” Smith said. “It was just awesome to see and hear them sing.”
The PTO began brainstorming ideas for service projects that the students could do in August, but had to adapt after the pandemic hit. As the year progressed, a member of the PTO remarked how her fifth-grader’s grandfather was struggling with visiting restrictions at his nursing home.
“She just told us how he’s upset and really just missing his family right now,” Smith said. “So that’s what sparked our interest [in this project]. If we were feeling sad for him, upset for him, wondering how we can help him, we thought … how can we help everybody else in this group as well?”
The goal of the project was to brighten the spirits of the residents at The Oaks. Smith said how there are many groups in the community that were in need, but the parents and students felt like the local nursing homes would benefit from some holiday cheer.
Haw Creek Elementary School Holiday Carols
In years previous, Haw Creek has held a fifth-grade luncheon where students are encouraged to dress in formal clothing to participate in a large holiday feast and celebration. Once the seven mindsets were introduced to the school system, the school wanted to continue to celebrate the fifth-graders, but also teach them the importance of giving back to their communities and living life with a service-driven heart.
“It always meant more to the kids doing [the service-learning project] anyways than them dressing up for the luncheon,” Tribble said. “Now it’s taken on a whole new meaning for the kids, which is what we really want — to teach them how to help and serve others.”
While Dental Town donated oral hygiene supplies, the funds for the project came from the dues collected in the fifth-grade group and PTO. The funds are always put towards service projects during the year, as well as celebrations for the students.
“I couldn’t be more proud, and the way that Claire and her team put this all together...” Tribble said. “I think [the residents of the nursing homes] are going to love [the stockings and video], and I think it’s going to put a big smile on their faces.”
Both Tribble and Smith wished to thank the people involved in this project, expressing how much the love and support in the school meant to them.
“We didn’t have the free reign [for the project] with everything going on this year,” Smith said. “I’m a parent of a fifth-grader … and I’m just so proud to be a part of this school and to know that my child is learning to give back to this community.”
Many of the seven mindsets taught in schools focus on community service, such as Attitude of Gratitude and Live to Give, both of which encourage students to make a difference in their worlds and “thank it forward.”
“Anything to put a smile on someone’s face,” Tribble said. “That’s what this has all been about … It doesn’t have to be something big and expensive; it’s really the little things that are important.”
Haw Creek will be holding its fifth-grade luncheon on Dec. 15 where students will be able to eat good food and share in the holiday spirit by decorating and putting together stockings for the nursing homes. The stockings will be delivered soon after along with the video of holiday carols, all to make the season bright and cheery for members of the community.