During their first "Genius Hour" period of the school year, Uthoff Valley Elementary
fourth-graders Abigail, Mya and Olivia began brainstorming a project that would help those who are less fortunate.
After meeting with their teacher, Amanda Wills, Uthoff Valley Principal Danna Thorne and Rockwood Board of Education
President Loralee Mondl and Director Jaime Bayes, the students organized a donation drive to benefit Rockwood Gives Back
, which helps Rockwood students in need.
Abigail, Mya and Olivia came up with the plan for the drive, made and distributed flyers around the school outlining the supplies they were collecting and produced a video to play on the morning announcements.
During the week of Oct. 7-11, Uthoff Valley donated 855 items to the Rockwood Gives Back campaign.
"We were really surprised that people donated this much," Olivia said. "It makes me feel proud because we helped out and happy because people will get a lot of food."
The three students incentivized the donations by holding a contest among the grade levels and school staff to see who could bring in the most items. They made a bar graph to hang on a bulletin board in the school commons to keep track of how many items each group donated.
Then they had to keep adding sheets of paper as the items poured in. In the case of the first-graders, who won the competition with 233 donated items, the sheets reach all the way to the ceiling. As the winning grade level, they got the honor of having their picture taken in the gym.
"It was only five days, and first grade completed like one graph sheet per day," Abigail said. "We couldn't fit another one."
"Some days, people would donate a lot and I would think they probably won't donate much the next day," Mya said. "But then they just kept donating, and we ended up getting a lot at the end."
Bayes, who – along with Mondl – is a member of the Rockwood Gives Back Committee, said the excitement and leadership shown by the trio of fourth-graders during the donation drive was inspiring.
At the end of the drive, she planned on taking all the Uthoff Valley donated items away in her car. She's going to need a bigger car.
"It's pretty remarkable," Bayes said. "The three of them collaborate together so well. It's not one person coming up with the ideas. They're sharing it. They're just really enthusiastic and proud of the work they're doing. It's truly right from their heart."