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"Giving Tree" highlights Philip Simmons Elementary fall STEAM lessons

Published Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Colleen Bendig's kindergarten class

BCSD photo / Monica Kreber

For their fall STEAM curriculum, kindergartners are learning about “giving.”

At Philip Simmons Elementary, the kindergartners have come up with a project for the school that incorporates giving back during the Thanksgiving holiday, along with a well-known children’s book.

Philip Simmons Elementary has opted to take out their Christmas tree early to be put on display near the front of the school, except the tree is being used as a “giving tree” with food labels on it for students to pick off and collect non-perishable items to help provide Thanksgiving meals for eight school families.

The students hand-made labels displaying a food item to donate and used them to “decorate” the tree. Students and teachers are encouraged to visit the Giving Tree and take a label – similar to how an Angel Tree works during the holidays.

Kindergarten teacher Colleen Bendig said the teachers opted to let the students come up with the project for the fall unit. The group came up with the concept based off Shel Silverstien’s book, “The Giving Tree”, in which a little boy develops a relationship with a very “giving” tree as he evolves into a “taking” teenager, man, then elderly man.

“It was a really cool experience,” Bendig said.

PSE Giving Tree

BCSD photo / Monica Kreber

The students are asking for different Thanksgiving non-perishables such as cans of black beans and green beans; stuffing, mashed potato and muffin mix; bread baking kits; macaroni and cheese; jell-o and cranberry sauce and pumpkin pie mix.

All the food items are due by Nov. 18.

Bendig said the students’ “giving” unit kicked off with learning about local blessing boxes, which are boxes set up locally for residents to drop of non-perishable items to feed families in need. Fifth-grader Merritt Payne previously established a blessing box in Huger – known as “Merritt’s Blessing Box” – and also helped make the blessing box set up at the elementary school. The kindergartners paid a visit to the school’s box and Payne explained to them how it works.

PSE Blessing Box

BCSD photo

The school also recently participated in Philip Simmons Middle’s fall festival; parents ran a cake walk booth and raised $194 that will be used to purchase turkeys for the families.

One of the school’s parents is helping by collecting paper products to be given to families as well.

Bendig said the concept of giving and learning to help others is a big part of kindergarten development. During the process she said the students have learned about how not everyone is the same, “but we’re all one.”

PSE Giving Tree

BCSD photo / Monica Kreber

She gave kudos to the students’ Giving Tree concept.

“I thought it was a great idea,” she said.

The students will wrap up their unit with Thanksgiving feasts with their families, during which the school will air a video showing all the things the students have been learning about.



Monica Kreber