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Food drive nourishes babies, provides deeper learning

Nov. 14, 2013 @ 12:00 AM

CULLODEN -- A jar of baby food can go a long way at Culloden Elementary School.

Not that the students are consuming it at school, but they have been bringing hundreds upon hundreds of containers of baby food to the school as part of an ongoing community project started by first-grade teacher Jennifer Burns.

As part of the new Common Core curriculum, teachers are encouraged to focus on fewer concepts but stress a deeper learning and understanding to students through projects. One suggested strategy is community service events, and that is where Burns found her teaching opportunity via the baby food drive.

"The Common Core wants us to use more real-life lessons, where kids are able to relate to it more," Burns said. "Teachers have taken it upon themselves to use this in their lessons in their classrooms, and I think the students are relating to it."

The school's nearly 200 students responded to the tune of nearly 2,000 containers of food in October alone, and all were donated to the Eastern Cabell County Humanity Organization, or ECCHO, in Milton.

The collection totals for November already are on pace to exceed October's collection, Burns said. The baby food collected this month will be donated to Branches Domestic Violence Shelter in Huntington.

Burns said she has been overwhelmed by the response from students.

"We asked students to bring in two or three jars of food each month," Burns said. "In each class, they have the whole month to collect, and they aren't just bringing in two or three jars. They bring whole bags of baby food."

Students in each classroom are responsible for counting the number of jars they have collected before they are turned in to Burns.

The classroom that supplies the most jars of baby food at the end of each month receives a small prize, and the classroom with the highest total at the end of the school year will be privy to a bigger treat, said Burns.

Lisa Sydor's fourth-grade class took home the top prize for October with a total of 230 containers.

Brenda Parsons' second-grade class collected the second-largest amount of jars in October. While her students do have their eyes on the prize, they also are receiving several lessons from the drive.

"Part of our Common Core in the second grade is citizenship," Parsons said. "What better way to become citizens than by giving back to the community? We also count the jars and sort them by fruits and vegetables. We talk about how those things can nourish us and how they nourish the babies, and we're using math to find out how many servings are in each package of food."

In Burns' class, students are practicing their graph-making skills while keeping track of the donations for each class.

The lessons even translate to students in Tammie Watts' Pre-K classroom, where students can count their jars and are learning how to help others.

"Even the pre-schoolers talk about feeding the hungry babies," Watts said. "It's neat to see pre-schoolers understand that there are kids in the community who need food and that they can help them."

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