BOUNTIFUL -- Students at Washington Elementary, working on service projects as part of the Good Deeds Challenge issued by the Rocky Mountain Care Foundation, think they're just having fun. But their teachers know better.
"They don't look at it as a service project, because to them it's just something fun to do and not necessarily a service," said sixth-grade teacher Larae Everson, who has been supervising as her sixth graders read to their second-grade buddies on a weekly basis.
The entire 280 student body is participating in various service projects as the first school to participate in Rocky Mountain Care Foundations goal of bringing a love of community service to elementary age children. The foundation hopes to extend the program to other schools in upcoming years.
"We are excited for the kick-off of the first Good Deeds Challenge," said Dede Fluette, Executive Director of Rocky Mountain Care Foundation. "We strongly believe in serving the community here at the Foundation and the hope is to spread this message to children in the community."
As part of the challenge, each grade decided on their service project for the community. For the last month, the kindergarten students have been collecting change for Primary Children's Hospital, first and second-graders have written letters to military personnel, and the third-graders collected books that were given to their school's head start and kindergarteners.
Fourth-graders have been collecting garbage around the school, fifth-graders planted bulbs in front of the school, and the sixth-graders have been reading with the school's second-graders.
Sixth-grader Savannah McMillan has even become friends with her second-grade reading buddy in the process, as they discovered they enjoy reading the same books and discussing what they have read together.
"It's been fun reading to her because she's nice and listens to everything I say," said McMillan. "When you read to other people, it feels like you are older and that feels cool. It doesn't really seem like a service."
Having the older kids read to the younger students has been critically important for second-grade teacher Rene Furmanski.
"It's a good role model for them and they get to hear good pacing and expression, which helps with their comprehension of the whole story," said Furmanski.
The fourth-graders who were picking up garbage on the school grounds took their service project one step further when they noticed hundreds of cigarette butts on the cat walk that leads from their school out to 500 South. They went to the neighboring businesses and asked if they would refrain from throwing their used cigarettes onto the walkway, and even provided a garbage can for them.
Fourth-grade teacher Camille Meriwether said her students have loved doing the project, which has made them more aware of the earth and how they can treat it better.
"I think the best part for me is seeing the kids so engaged in a project that is hands-on so they can see the end result," said Meriwether.
The Good Deeds Challenge will culminate in an assembly in mid-November where the students will get to celebrate their efforts, and in return, thank some of the organizations who have helped their school, such as Ken Garff, who provides book bags for each student, and the Bountiful Rotary Club, who provides coats and dictionaries for students.
"We want our school to thank them for their service and for students to recognize the service they provide and see that yes, we're a small school, but even one person makes a difference," said Assistant Principal Adell Arvidson.
The school plans to continue with the service projects in future years.
"We feel like it is really important to learn at this age that helping people feels good," said Arvidson.