The final bell had rung Friday, Dec. 13, but instead of streaming for the exits like the rest of the Greensview Elementary School students, the school's fourth-graders were hunkering down in the gymnasium.
It wasn't some mass disciplinary action that led to roughly 69 students staying after school from 3 to 7 p.m.
Quite the contrary: The students were reveling in the opportunity to celebrate another successful Rockathon -- and as such, the first wave of fourth-graders took their seats in wooden rocking chairs while others plopped down on wrestling mats with computer tablets as they waited their turns.
Now in its 18th year, the event was started by former Greensview teacher and current school principal Jason Wulf. The Rockathon is an annual service-learning project through which fourth-graders raise money to provide food and clothing to Columbus-area children in need during the holidays.
Over the years, they have solicited more than $50,000 in donations for myriad organizations, including Nationwide Children's Hospital, Faith Mission and Huckleberry House, to fight hunger and other poverty issues among children their age and younger.
This year, the event generated $4,513 in donations from students' efforts, plus another $1,000 contribution from Meijer Supermarket Co.
"They asked for donations," said Suzanne Kotch, a fourth-grade teacher at Greensview. "They said, 'We are willing to stay after school and give our time for your donations.'
"Next Tuesday, we'll go to a Meijer and buy food," Kotch said. "Then our kids will be packing food bags for students who go home over winter break and don't have enough food."
The food purchased with the donations will be given to the YMCA of Central Ohio and to After-School All-Stars, a Columbus mentorship and assistance program for under-resourced children in Columbus. Both organizations will distribute the food to families in need over the holiday break.
To help teach the Greensview students about food insecurity and disparities between their households and those where children sometimes don't receive adequate nourishment, representatives of the organizations shared stories about children in need.
"We want to fill 300 food bags for the After-School All-Stars to take home over winter break and 300 more bags filled with snacks, school supplies and games for the YMCA," Kotch said. "We have received a grant from the Upper Arlington Service Learning Foundation, which provided money for busing to Meijer and pizzas for dinner for the fourth-graders.
"We incorporate all academic areas with this project," she said. "We study hunger and homelessness, read books, do readers theaters, use math to count money and figure out how much money will get spent in each group at Meijer, present (information) about hunger and homelessness at our school town meeting."
Greensview fourth-grader Hudson Belair said he even visited the Mid-Ohio Foodbank, where he heard about the number of children in the U.S. who are homeless and hungry.
From there, he set out to raise funds for Rockathon.
"Me and my neighbor just went house to house," Hudson said. "We told people about the fourth grade and our school and what we're doing. I think it's important because hunger is becoming bigger and bigger."
Fellow fourth-grader Ryley Schneider said she learned about the power of giving through the project.
"It makes me feel really happy that we're helping kids that don't have a lot of food," she said.
"We learned about how sometimes kids go home from school and they don't really know if they're going to have a meal that day."
Kotch said she believes the project is especially meaningful because it teaches students about poverty and being charitable, and it provides food assistance during winter break, when underresourced children don't have the benefit of a meal from their schools.
"Oftentimes during winter break, they may not know when they will receive their next meal," she said.
Wulf said he borrowed the Rockathon concept from a Hilliard school where he used to teach.
When he initially introduced the project at Greensview, it was just his fourth-grade class that participated.
He said he is pleased that it's become a tradition for all the school's fourth-graders.
"Service learning was such a big deal in Upper Arlington, even when I started here over 20 years ago, and it was so successful there," Wulf said. "Eventually, it became a whole fourth-grade thing and it's stuck ever since.
"Now when they have some of the guest speakers come in, it really shows where it goes. That's really valuable -- that connection."