A few weeks ago, New Century School kindergartner Finneagan Collins’s trip to Costco with his parents was different than any other.
Instead of buying items in bulk for his family, the five year old took $65 he had earned from playing his guitar outside Camp Randall at a University of Wisconsin home game – strumming “On Wisconsin,” of course. He purchased paper towels and other cleaning supplies for the Dane County Humane Society.
That following Monday, Finneagan brought the supplies to his teacher’s classroom to be donated to the K-1 classroom’s year-long service project for the nonprofit.
“They even put money in my hat,” he said.
Finneagan was pretty humble about it, too, Emily Utzig said, not thinking it was a big deal that he had raised the money, or that there was a band-aid on his thumb for a blister created from playing the guitar.
“It just proves what our service project is about,” she said. “I was shocked – when you start something new, you never know how it’s going to go – as to how much these kids really got into it.”
This is the first year Utzig and her co-teacher Sue Austen have undertaken the service project as a way of meeting one of the school’s overarching goals of service learning and giving back to the community, she said.
Throughout the school year, Utzig will be getting “wish lists” noting the supply needs of the humane society that Utzig and Austen then encourage students to donate.
“It’s to get the kids excited about giving back to our community,” she said. “And it’s with pets, so you can’t go wrong with animals.”
For the months of September and October, that wish list includes paper towels, hand sanitizer and, of all things, spray-cheese to hide the animal’s medication.
The K-1 class also has a goal of raising $100 for DCHS by the end of the year, of which they’re 75% of the way there, with the help of another kindergartner, Levi Dziubla, who decided to cut a family experiment short to help the animals.
Levi’s family had been filling a home brew wine jug with pennies, his father Kyle said, just to see how many they could fit inside it. The jug wasn’t full when Kyle helped Levi bring it into his classroom a few weeks ago, but it still contained 2,500 pennies, or $25 worth of change for DCHS.
Levi had asked to donate the jug of pennies because the animals were cute, and they weren’t able to help themselves, Kyle said.
“When he came home and suggested that, we loved it,” he said.
“I love that they create an environment where teaching the kids that this world is so much bigger than us, and that it’s really important to give back to help people … and animals who don’t have some of the basic things that everybody deserves,” Levi’s mother Ann added.
Other students in the K-1 class, as well as other students at the school, have been bringing in change and donations for DCHS, which will be given to the nonprofit in early November when the students go on a field trip to meet the animals housed at the humane society and its volunteers.
Utzig said the students love watching the donation jar fill up with change, and it’s always the first thing they ask about on Monday morning, is how much they earned.
Jen Collins, Finneagan’s mother, said she appreciates how this project teaches students like her son about giving back.
“It gives us a place at home to kind of expand on it,” she said. “It’s nice to give him an opportunity to show that kindness, because of anything he’s learning, raising an empathetic human is one of the most important things we can do.”