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Students Come Together to Help Hurricane Recovery

Donations, Classroom Lessons Follow Disasters

Editor’s note: Schools throughout Kent ISD are pitching in to help Southern state residents recover from hurricanes Harvey and Irma. Following is a sampling of their work, including classroom learning related to the storms.

Pine Island third-grader Tynes Corwin said his grandmother gave him $50 to shop for items to donate. He bought staples, as well as a board game “so they don’t just have to sit on a beach or a platform and watch water to pass the time,” he said

Comstock Park

Students at Pine Island Elementary didn’t need to study the devastating effects of hurricanes in the country’s Southern states in order to help. But as long as they were collecting items for relief efforts, at least one teacher modified her classroom lessons to illustrate their relevance to current events.

Just inside the main entrance of the school, students contributed to a large pile of hurricane relief items such as first-aid kits, blankets, stuffed animals, toiletries and board games.

Inside the first classroom on the left, fifth-graders in Mary Kelley’s class were watching a news report from over the weekend about Hurricane Irma’s path from the Caribbean to Florida and northward.

“Did you see anything that surprised you?” Kelley asked.

“The sea was all dry,” answered Melina Becker. “But then it started coming back.”

That phenomenon, Kelley explained, was what happened as the hurricane drew in, then released water farther on.

“The surge brings just as much devastation as a tsunami,” she told her students. “That wind is so powerful, lifting up the water and pulling it out, then punching it back into shore and inland.”

The impromptu hurricane lessons enfolded science, geography, social studies and reading, as well as current events, communication and reasoning, and service projects.

“We mapped the storms and then we tracked them,” Kelley said, “but it was amazing how many questions we were able to explore: Where do zoo animals go? What are some ways to engineer stronger buildings? What are the most important things to pack when you have to evacuate, and why? I’m learning a lot too.”

North Godwin first-graders Joostyn Ramirez-Morales and Saa’riyah Miller donated coins to support a school hit by Hurricane Harvey

Godwin Heights

North Godwin Elementary School students are collecting change to benefit an elementary school near Houston hit by Hurricane Harvey.

First-grade teacher Meghan Shannon challenged students to bring in coins through Sept. 18 for Ault Elementary School, located in Cypress, about a half-hour from Houston. Former West Godwin Elementary interventionist Jessica Quist now works at Ault, and Shannon has kept in contact with her.

Shannon said a big theme this year is for North Godwin students to “pay it forward.” The high-poverty school receives many donations of food, clothing and supplies from area businesses and organizations. “When you are able to receive that much, it’s good to give back,” she said.

Students were eager to dig into their piggy banks and pockets. “We can help others. The hurricane is very dangerous,” said first-grader Saa’riyah Miller.

“If they don’t have any homes they are going to be cold,” said first-grader Joostyn Ramirez-Morales. “If we give them pennies, they can build all the things up again.”

Grandville High School Key Club International officers started a fundraising campaign to help schoolchildren in Houston


Before Hurricane Harvey finished its devastating battering of Houston, three friends at the high school’s Key Club International were determined to help schoolchildren recover from the catastrophic flooding.

Sure, Key Club International, a high school student-led organization affiliated with Kiwanis International, is a champion of kindness. But the Grandville club’s officers — Luke Johnson, Alex Lin and Seth Van Blois — knew this was an opportunity for the entire school to help.

“It’s hard to think about everything that you own being destroyed,” said Luke, Key Club president. “We’re really just feeling that we needed to do something for Houston.”

Just hours before Luke approached Principal John Philo, English teacher Jennifer Ward had forwarded Philo a Twitter link to “Principals Helping Principals,” a Google document which helps schools like Grandville High partner with a Houston school in need.

“That’s the really cool thing – within 24 hours, we were raising money for Hurricane Harvey,” Philo said. “It just all came together by students who wanted to start a Hurricane Harvey awareness campaign immediately.”

The next day, Key Club put out a donation jar at the spirit dance after the football game and raised nearly $200. The club added another collection box in the high school’s main office, and intend to raise money through their Oct. 6 homecoming by incorporating the hurricane collection in their spirit activities.

From the Principals Helping Principals link, Luke searched for a school to send the financial donation to and landed on Cypress Ridge High School in Harris County, Texas.

“When I searched Cypress Ridge on the Internet, I found some statistics that the school was over 3,000 students with a 60 percent free and reduced lunch, so we wanted to help the students who might have less resources,” Luke said.

Spot on, said Principal Philo: “As a school, we want to empower our students to think outside our walls, that community service is real. We require our students to have 20 hours of community service to graduate, and the hope is that we build a student culture that makes the world a little better.”


How to Support Houston Independent School District

The Toll of Harvey and Irma on America’s Schoolchildren

Working on posters to collect food donations for the Red Cross to send to hurricane victims are, from left, Sparta Appleview Elementary students Kathryn Kober, Paige Wilcox and Jaiden Baldini
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Erin Albanese
Erin Albanese
Erin Albanese is managing editor and reporter, covering Kentwood, Lowell and Wyoming. She was one of the original SNN staff writers, helping launch the site in 2013, and enjoys fulfilling the mission of sharing the stories of public education. She has worked as a journalist in the Grand Rapids area since 2000. A graduate of Central Michigan University, she has written for The Grand Rapids Press, Advance Newspapers, On-the-Town Magazine and Group Tour Media. Read Erin's full bio


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