Upper Arlington News

Habitat Day

Annual project at Barrington focused on childhood hunger

By ThisWeek Community News  • 

Upper Arlington's Barrington Elementary School students learned about childhood hunger during "Habitat Day: Caring for People in our Community."

They also learned how hard it can be for low-income families to plan healthy meals.

The students recently donated more than 50 boxes of food to the Mid-Ohio Foodbank after collecting 833 pounds of food and supplies as part of the Habitat Day project.

The sixth annual Habitat Day was held Oct. 25. Teacher Katie Benton said the day is a culmination of a community service effort.

"Six years ago, we began having Habitat Day at Barrington to help students learn more about nature and the environment in an effort to support and enhance our on-site garden and wildlife habitat," she said. "Every year, we have different themes, from animal habitats to recycling, to helping others in need. This year was 'caring for our community'."

Benton said last year had the same overarching theme, with all students touring the YWCA Family Center, then working throughout the year to support the cause.

"This year, we extended that theme and all students in kindergarten through fifth grade toured the Mid-Ohio Foodbank," she said. "Three of our Habitat Day sessions related to our visit there -- one on healthy eating, one that was a budget shopping stimulation and one that had kids collect and pack boxes for families to be distributed by Mid-Ohio."

Benton said Barrington has both contemporary and informal groups of students. She said informal teachers share teaching philosophies and base lessons on progressive education practices.

She said students learned about healthy eating by trying nine different vegetables through Veggie U, a national organization that provides classroom garden kits, including popcorn shoots, mixed carrots and pea tendrils.

"They also went through a budget shopping simulation, using grocery ads to shop for meals for a family with an allowance of only $4 per person per day, the amount given if one is getting government assistance," she said.

"We learned how difficult it is to shop on a tight budget, as many people have to do," said Sydney Barrett, 8. "We had to buy foods like hot dogs and mac and cheese. We couldn't afford many healthy items and the meals weren't always balanced."

Josh Owens, 10, said participating in Habitat Day is important "because we learn things at school and also help people in our community."

Lilly Loudon, 9, said she learned to be grateful for her own life.

"I learned how hunger feels and how hard it is," she said. "It is important to be grateful for what we have, as some people don't have enough food to meet basic needs."

Benton said students attended a music and movement workshop with music teacher Debbie Gibson, who created songs with students that focused on the environment and the school garden.

"Different grade levels wrote different verses of the song that were combined into one final product," she said. "The students also did large group movements and dancing to music."

"A student T-shirt design contest raised $400 for the upkeep and expansion of the Barrington Garden and Habitat," Benton said. "The winning logo was 'Leave Your Pawprint on the Earth.'

"In the past few years, we have donated money to build a shed, install raised beds for the garden and to purchase a bench for the habitat area," she said. "These new funds will allow us to continue and expand."

Assistant Principal Carla Wilson said the program gives students an "authentic learning experience."

"It allows students the chance to utilize 21st-century learning skills, including collaboration, critical thinking and problem-solving in order to gain a deeper understanding of the community," she said.

Principal Jason Fine said Habitat Day provides "a great opportunity for our students and teachers to leave their paw prints on the Earth by giving back to our larger community."

"This day exemplifies the Barrington motto of working hard and being kind," he said. "I am proud of Barrington students and teachers for paying it forward."