Olde Sawmill Elementary School students are judicious when it comes to giving out money.

Olde Sawmill Elementary School students are judicious when it comes to giving out money.

The elementary school raised about $3,280 in the fall and is currently deciding which nonprofit organization will benefit this spring in the annual Penny Harvest.

The Penny Harvest is a three-step process: collect change, interview nonprofit groups and schoolwide voting on beneficiaries.

Fourth- and fifth-grade students in the LEAP program for gifted children at Olde Sawmill lead the effort and last week wrapped up interviewing eight organizations.

For the interviews, students had to research each nonprofit group and come up with questions that can't be answered with information on their website, said Janet DiSilvestro, LEAP teacher.

"We love Penny Harvest," Sarah Douglas from Faith Mission told students during the interview last week. "It gives us a chance to let you know what we do."

Douglas answered questions from about a dozen students for more than an hour.

By the time the interview was over, students knew about locations, services and how many people are served annually by Faith Mission.

Students even asked about how much money goes to services versus administration and how to end homelessness, which was a difficult question for Douglas to answer.

"You can volunteer and donate," she said, adding that a political solution to homelessness would take many years.

Several students took notes and the information gleaned from the interview will be presented to the school.

"During the morning announcements somebody will go on camera and tell what the organization is," said Grant Smialek, a fourth-grader.

After that schoolwide voting will be done and three nonprofits will be chosen from the eight interviewed.

According to DiSilvestro, students learn skills they'll use later on in life when they call nonprofits, meet new people, research and perform interviews during Penny Harvest.

"It just goes to show the kind of learning that can go on that's not on the standardized tests," she said.

While LEAP students are assigned many different jobs during Penny Harvest, they don't see the effort as extra work.

"We do it during LEAP, but it's fun," Smialek said. "It's not like something you have to do."

"It's something you do for the community and you're learning leadership skills," said Will Smialek, Grant's twin brother.

Along with lots of learning through the Penny Harvest, DiSilvestro said students also get invested in giving.

"With this program, they see the end result and they make the decisions," she said.