Even children in the earliest grades can perform meaningful acts of charity to make the world a better place.
Case in point: The 15 first graders at St. Benedict the Moor, led by their teacher Sharon Campbell, recently collaborated on a hands-on service project called “Care for God’s Creatures” in which they mixed and kneaded dough using a recipe for dog biscuits.
On Feb. 7, the youngsters hand-fed the baked treats to the canine residents of the New Orleans SPCA.
“My favorite part was mixing (the dog biscuit ingredients) together and knowing we are helping the animals,” said Olivia Lanoix, as she and her classmates used cookie-cutters in the shape of a bone, a dog and a paw print to form the individual biscuits.
But before the fun part could take place, there was lots of work and learning to do. After gathering in the school cafeteria, the first graders went over the ingredients and directions for the special concoction, printed on two large poster boards. Reading the grocery list as a group allowed Campbell, their teacher, to remind her students that good cooks and bakers always make sure they have everything they need before diving into a kitchen project.
Next, Campbell called each student to the head of the table so he or she could take turns measuring and combining the ingredients, which included chicken stock, three types of flour and dry goat’s milk.
Along the way, Campbell seized on opportunities to teach her first graders lessons, such as the difference between bleached and unbleached flour, and a tablespoon and a teaspoon.
“Remember, the teaspoon is the smaller one,” she said, as one of the youngsters added salt to the mixture.
At one point, Campbell conducted a quick lesson on antonyms after her students had finished mixing the recipe’s dry ingredients.
“What’s the opposite of dry?” she asked, pointing to the liquids that would turn the yeast and flour mixture into a paste.
“Who remembers how many cups are in a pint?” Campbell asked them, following up with yet another math question: “How many halves make a whole?”
Her students knew their stuff.
“We haven’t even gotten to fractions yet, and you already know this,” she marveled. “You’re going to do so well!”
Excitement peaked whenit was time to knead the biscuit mixture.
“The dough is going to be sticky for the first eight people who are kneading, but for the last half of the class (the dough) will be more like Play-Doh,” Campbell predicted.
After rolling out the dough, the first graders took turns cutting it out into the whimsical shapes.
“My favorite part was putting the egg stuff on top of the biscuits because it was just like painting,” said Daryl Moran of the final step of the biscuit-making process. Campbell baked the pieces in her home oven.
The first graders personally delivered the dog biscuits to the SPCA, along with some catnip toys they also made. To make the toys, the students stuffed infant-size socks with cotton and catnip, and then gave them to Margie Farve, their class’ assistant teacher, so she could seal the edges with glue and thread.
During their Feb. 7 visit to the SPCA, the St. Benedict the Moor first graders had the thrill of feeding their biscuits to the dogs and placing the catnip toys in the cats’ cages. They also presented the SPCA staff with used, washed blankets and towels donated by St. Benedict the Moor School families. These items, collected in a drive spearheaded by the first graders, will be used to make the animals’ beds cozier as they await adoption.
“My favorite part was seeing my students getting excited about doing something for others, and learning that even at their age, they can make a difference!” Campbell said.
First grader Ahmaad Johnson said he was happy to get his hands dirty in order to give the animals of the SPCA a little tender loving care.
“My favorite part was mushing the dough together,” Ahmaad said. “It felt all smushy!”
“Care for God’s Creatures” was funded through a service-learning grant from the Joe and Dorothy Dorsett Brown Foundation.