A simple field trip to the Peaceful Valley Donkey Ranch last month inspired first-grade students at Crockett Elementary to give back to their community and their school through a fundraising project. After their trip to the donkey ranch, the students decided to hold a silent auction of handmade art inspired by their visit to the donkey ranch. They would split the proceeds from the auction between the Peaceful Valley Donkey Rescue and a first-grade impact project of purchasing a Buddy Bench for the school.
Joana Heronema, AnnaLisa Galvan and Allison Hefner, first-grade teachers at Crockett Elementary, said their students discussed and voted on what their impact project would be. They decided they liked the idea of a Buddy Bench the most. “What they do is sit on the Buddy Bench if they don’t have anyone to play with,” said Ms. Heronema. “If someone sees them sitting on the bench, they run by and say, ‘Hey, come play with us.’ It helps them feel included.”
Buddy Benches, also known as Friendship Playground Benches, are designed as a way to provide students a safe space to eliminate loneliness and foster friendships. By just sitting on the Buddy Bench, a student can signal to peers that they are feeling lonely or isolated and need a friend to play with or someone to talk to, without saying a word. The student’s peers can then join them on the bench and talk or invite them to play. “We want to be kind, we want to include everybody, so the Buddy Bench seemed to be the most impactful for our campus,” Ms. Heronema said.
For the silent art auction, every first-grade student and their teachers created, painted or colored a hand-made piece of art, with some creating more than one piece. The project took them a month to complete. Together, the first-grade students and their teachers created 67 total pieces they put up for bid in a 5-day-long silent auction. The majority of the art consisted of bold, colorful paintings and drawings depicting donkeys. However, the students also created a ceramic coffee mug with donkeys and other ceramic pieces that were inspired by their school spirit and their school mascot, the bear. We hope you enjoy this reel from the art show!
Ms. Heronema said the students’ fundraising goal was $1,000. “Buddy Benches range from $600 to $1500,” said Ms. Heronema. She said the particular bench the group was interested in cost about $800. “Whatever we can raise, we’ll just take half of that and then we’ll work towards the rest for the bench and just add to it .”
The starting bid for the items in the art auction started from $5-$10. When the art auction closed at 8pm on November 8, the first-grade students had surpassed their $1,000-goal and raised a total of $1,606.80, with all but four pieces being sold. When the teachers informed the first graders about the results from the silent auction, the students’ reaction said it all: “Our students jumped and screamed for joy!” the teachers said. “We as a grade level are ecstatic about going above our goal. We knew this was a big goal and students were highly motivated to reach the goal. Our students stepped up to the challenge and we were able to help our school and then the community.” The students hope to have the Buddy Bench in place, dedicated and functionable in March 2024.