GRANITE FALLS - Christmas might still be a couple months away, but students at Bert Raney Elementary in Granite Falls are already getting into the giving spirit by sending letters and decorated bags to troops stationed overseas.
The care packages of holiday cheer are part of a volunteer organization called Project Rudolph that aims to bring Christmas to the troops who are stationed overseas during the holiday season. Sixth-grade teacher Stacy Hinz received a video from the founder of the national program asking schools to participate. She asked her students if they would be interested, and the response was a resounding yes.
"She ends her video by saying 'I am only one, but I AM one,'" sixth-grade teacher Stacy Hinz said. "The kids said, 'you know what, we're only one and we can do something, too.' I asked if they wanted to participate in the program and every one of them did."
Students work on gifts for troops
According to Project Rudolph Founder Tawny Archibald Campbel, the wife of a service-member stationed in Iraq, the program started as a way to provide a bit of holiday cheer to service members deploying in the weeks before Christmas.
Sixth-graders in Hinz's class wrote letters to the troops and were paired with kindergartners to decorate bags to send along with the letters.
"I'm always looking for authentic ways for our kids to write, so we thought it would be a nice gesture and give them a purpose for writing," Hinz said.
Photo by Phillip Bock
Kindergartner Isabella Schultz gets help decorating her bag from volunteer Avis Freitag and sixth-grader Austin Steckelberg on Friday at Bert Raney Elementary in Granite Falls. The students decorated bags and wrote Christmas letters that will be sent to troops stationed overseas during the holiday season.
The project was also the first time this school year that the sixth-graders paired up with the kindergartners. Hinz said the goal is to try and group them up more often to teach them life skills such as leadership and patience.
Sixth-grader Cole Hatch said he was a little worried about being paired up with a kindergartner.
"I'm not used to working with kids, so I was really nervous," he said. "I was more nervous than my partner."
The sixth-graders assisted the kindergartners in decorating the bags using glitter, markers, snowflakes and lots of glue.
"I made two bags, I put glitter and glue and stuff like that," sixth-grader Angel Flores said, "It's been fun. I think it really helps us calm down and brings out our inner kid."
As the bags were completed students placed them in the hallway to dry. Students were able to look at their classmates artwork and reflect on the project.
"I like it because it's helpful for the soldiers because they don't get to come home for Christmas," sixth-grader Janny Halvorson said. "It's kind of sad."
After the bags were decorated and the glue was dry, the sixth-graders wrote their letters on Christmas cards and put them in the bags.
"In my letter I told them about what I like and at the very end I wrote them a little Christmas song," Halvorson said. "I just started singing it and told myself I should put it in the letter to cheer them up."
Hinz said she is proud of her students and the work they have done for the project.
"They are very heartfelt in wishing that these troops could be home for Christmas," Hinz said. "I think it's teaching them to think on a more global picture about what is going on in the world and to be really thankful for what we have at home."