Avella first-graders learn the importance of giving

Avella Elementary School students learn the importance of giving

December 10, 2013
It was a family affair as Christina Noga and her daughter, Emily, 6, cut strips for the blanket as Christina’s husband, Barry Noga, takes care of their son, Connor, 4 months. First-grade students at Avella Elementary and family members spent Tuesday afternoon working together on fleece blankets that will be donated to an area nonprofit organization. - Jim McNutt / Observer-Reporter Order a Print

Squeals of delight echoed down the halls of Avella Elementary School Tuesday. Spread across one half of the school’s gymnasium were pieces of bright, colorful fleece and 40 first-graders and their families.

The group was constructing 20 fleece blankets, which will be donated to a nonprofit organization in Washington in the upcoming week. The annual project was funded by the Avella Eagle Connection, the district’s equivalent of a PTA.

“The AEC gives each grade $200 every year to do a student, parent and teacher project,” Jody Morgan, a first-grade teacher, said. “We thought this would be something nice to do, especially in December.”

On top of reinforcing the kids’ tying skills, Morgan said the project taught the students the importance of giving rather than receiving.

“We explained to them that it is not only about getting what you want, but making others happy as well,” Morgan said.

Morgan and the other two first-grade teachers purchased the fleece and cut and pinned the material into shape.

The students and their family members cut the ends of the material into strips and then tied the strips together.

Alana Forkl, 6, patiently watched as her mother, Melissa Byerley, cut long strips in the fabric.

“This is fun,” Alana said. “This one will be the best one ever.”

Byerley said she was excited to volunteer her time to help with “such an incredible project.”

“This is great,” she said.

Dana Gatewood said the project helped to reinforce previous conversations she has had with her son.

“We’ve talked about how some people don’t have a lot of family or get any presents at this time of year,” she said. “It’s important for them to learn about giving back to others. Plus the blankets are so nice, and it’s simple. The kids feel like they are involved.”

Hayden Gatewood said he hoped the blanket he was making with his mother and his grandmother, Laurie Brownlee, would make others happy.

In the past, Morgan said the project has had a ripple effect with the students.

“They get so excited,” she said. “The enthusiasm carries over to home, and they want to make blankets there.”

Sydney Allen, 6, couldn’t wait to make a blanket at home. Sydney and her grandmother, Joyce Mankey, quickly assembled their blanket. Mankey smiled as she watched her granddaughter tie the fabric into knots. She was pleased with the meaningful lesson her granddaughter was learning.

“Kids, they all get so much. We have lost the meaning of this time of year and what it is like to give,” she said. “This is just very important. It’s important for them to understand.”

Francesca Sacco joined the Observer-Reporter as a staff writer in November 2013, and covers the Washington County Courthouse and education. Prior to working with the Observer-Reporter, Francesca was a staff writer with a Gannett paper in Ohio. She graduated from Point Park University with a dual bachelor’s degree in print and broadcast journalism.

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