Jody Hickey’s Mission: Thankful Project Inspires Second Graders to Give Back

serendipity academy
Jody Hickey and her second grade class gave back to our community this season with their Mission: Thankful Project.

 

By Megan Conklin

New CBM LogoJody Hickey is a teacher on a mission. As her second grade students at Serendipity Academy, a K-6 private school in Tumwater, can attest, Hickey has a more than full time job teaching them reading, writing, math, history, art, science, and a variety of other skills and subjects over the course of the school year.

But, they would also tell you that Mrs. Hickey is determined to share more than just academics with her students. “I am always looking for creative writing assignments that engage students – that provide them with a personal connection, are fun, meaningful, and serve a greater purpose outside the guidelines of the original assignment.  Assignments that provide a ‘teachable moment’ for students,” she explained.  She achieved this goal in a big way when she assigned her second graders the “Mission: Thankful” project this past November.

serendipity academy
Jody Hickey and her second grade class gave back to our community this season with their Mission: Thankful Project.

The assignment, or mission, as Mrs. Hickey and the kids called it, was to take $5 and help someone in need with the money. The children then had to write (in great detail) about the experience and share those written reflections with their teacher and classmates. Students were allowed to choose how they would spend the money and whom they might help, and the only stipulation was that they could not use the money to help anyone in their own, immediate family. There was also a small suggestion at the bottom of the assignment sheet that perhaps the students could find a way to turn their five dollars into more money to donate – maybe $10?

The initial $5 that each student needed to begin their mission came out of Jody Hickey’s own pocket. “Each year my family and I make contributions to local organizations.” Hickey clarified, “So I began challenging myself to think of ways in which I could make my impact larger on a small teacher’s salary.  I set aside a portion of this donation money and decided to give it to my students to see how they would positively impact our community on a grander scale.” Her students did not disappoint.

Addison shares a picture of the herself donating $86 to the Thurston County Animal Shelter.
Addison shares a picture of the herself donating $86 to the Thurston County Animal Shelter.

I stopped by Mrs. Hickey’s second grade classroom at Serendipity Academy to hear the students share their reflections on the “Mission Thankful” project.  I was overwhelmed by the sweet sincerity emanating from the students as they carefully explained how they chose their charity, turned their original $5 into much more money to donate, and reflected on how the assignment made them feel, both about themselves and the community in which they live.

Second grader Addison asked her mom to host a dinner party and invite friends and family. She then prepared and delivered a speech at the dinner explaining the project and asking for donations to help turn her $5 into more money for her charity, the Thurston County Humane Society. Addison’s powers of persuasive speech turned her original five bucks into $86 for the animal shelter. When Addison shared her project with the class, she was quick to point out that fellow second grader, Avolyn donated $20 of her birthday money to Addison’s cause.

Avolyn got creative with her project and raised $110 for St. Jude Children's Research Hospital.
Avolyn got creative with her project and raised $110 for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.

Avolyn had pretty great success with her “Mission: Thankful” project as well. She asked her mom to take her down to the Painted Plate in Olympia to purchase and decorate some Christmas ornaments. She then turned around and sold the hand pained ornaments to her extended family members – who were thrilled to purchase them and help a good cause. Avolyn’s creativity and determination turned her five dollars into $110, which she happily donated to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. “I just wanted to make kids with cancer feel better,” Avolyn explained. “And I learned that I like to donate money and help people in need.”

Gabe really wanted to help the underserviced people of Thurston County with his project money. So, he called all of his family and friends on the telephone to tell them about this project.  He also asked Serendipity Academy teachers and staff.  Using a script he created, Gabe asked if they would donate an additional dollar to his efforts.  Many of the people he asked donated much more than the dollar he was asking for, bringing his total to $90.

Second grader, Ben, takes questions from his classmates about his project of donations to homeless individuals in Olympia.
Second grader, Ben, takes questions from his classmates about his project of donations to homeless individuals in Olympia.

Then, Gabe purchased all the ingredients needed to make a scrumptious breakfast meal and delivered it to Quixote Village, a self-governing community of 30 previously homeless adults located in Olympia. Gabe and his family cooked up sausage, eggs, pancakes and more for over thirty people in the village. During his presentation in class, Gabe took great joy in demonstrating his newly acquired pancake flipping skills for his fellow second graders (you turn your wrist just like this!), and he also shared that it was very fun to help people in need and he would like to do it again soon.

Ben bought hats and socks for homeless people at the Dollar Store and hand delivered them. Lilly and her mom cooked chicken enchiladas for a friend from church who is battling cancer. Ireland bought stationary and envelopes with her $5 and wrote letters to family and friends asking them to donate to her charity.

The stories go on and on and end with this: Never underestimate the power of a determined group of seven and eight year olds. Because, with the help of an incredibly generous teacher who models what it means to give selflessly, they can change our world.

 

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