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School District No. 57 (Prince George)
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Learning opportunity lets Lac des Bois students give back to community

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June 18, 2019 --

A first-year initiative at Ecole Lac des Bois Elementary – one that wrapped fundraising and community volunteer work inside a real-world educational opportunity – was hugely successful from all angles of examination.

The project for Chelsea Thiessen's Grade 6 students began in February and concluded last week with a celebratory pot-luck lunch at the school. Representatives from six organizations were in attendance. Before the food was served, they accepted cheques in the total amount of $1,794.70.

"I'm really proud (of the students)," Thiessen said. "There are quite a few that went above and beyond."

It all started early in 2019 when various community groups came to Lac des Bois and gave talks about themselves for Thiessen's students. Based on the information they heard, the students picked a group they wanted to work for, or, with their teacher's approval, chose their own.

The project was divided into three parts: fundraising, volunteering and educative. Most of the students raised money through bake sales but one group hosted a hot lunch. The students also spent a certain number of hours doing volunteer work for their chosen organization. For the final part, the education piece, the students were required to give presentations to other Lac des Bois classes about what they learned.

The community groups that took part in the project were Rainbow Lodge Intermediate Care Home, PG Animal Rescue, Prince George Humane Society, Canadian Red Cross, St. Vincent de Paul Society and The Exploration Place.

The students who focused their efforts on Rainbow Lodge chose it on their own and raised $286.05. For the volunteering component of their project, Addison Chadwick, Sofia Carpino and Kate Richards spent time visiting with residents of the lodge.

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"It was a super sweet project," Thiessen said. "They went once a week – more hours than was required of them – met with different individuals, interviewed the individuals.

"I think it was really wonderful and I think it will be continuing next year."

Amy Morton, a recreation program coordinator at Rainbow Lodge, said a bond was created through the interaction between the students and seniors.

"The residents that we have there have dementia and a lot of the time they don't have connection – even verbal connection – with many people," Morton said. "They've lost that.

"When the residents see a younger age group they get really excited and I think it also kind of reminds them of their role as a mother and having kids. That in itself made them feel important and purposeful."

Exchanges of knowledge also happened, particularly one day when young and young-at-heart gathered together in the Rainbow Lodge garden.

"In the garden they were kind of both teaching each other," Morton said. "The seniors were teaching them how to do stuff but then (the students) had a different view of it and they were teaching the seniors. It was a really cool dynamic."

The school presentation by the students focused on the fact that seniors with dementia are still valuable members of the community.

The Lac des Bois PG Animal Rescue group raised an impressive $414.05. Other totals were: Prince George Humane Society, $295.50; Canadian Red Cross, $366.30; Saint Vincent de Paul Society, $251.05; and The Exploration Place, $181.75.

The class project meshed perfectly with School District No. 57's Strategic Plan 2016-2021.

"The Grade 6 curriculum, it literally says that Grade 6s are supposed to do volunteer work outside of their community," Thiessen said. "They are also, in Social Studies, asked to become aware of not-for-profit organizations and what they do and how they work. So this was an introduction of locally-based, not-for-profit organizations. (The project) also fits in with leadership skills and leadership qualities – all that career education stuff."

Thiessen is already looking ahead to 2019-20 and a fresh batch of Grade 6 students who can build on what was accomplished this year.

"We'll be doing this again next year for sure and I think that we've made some really good connections in the community, which I think is so important," Thiessen said.

"I think that they've all pulled together really well. And the fundraising as well – I was so shocked how much money we raised for each organization. It was really surprising and people were really passionate about it."

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