By Barbara Reina
VALATIE — Ichabod Crane Middle School students have raised more than $600 in one month toward saving elephants from extinction. Students in grades 4-7 have the combined goal of raising $1,000 to benefit an elephant nature park in Thailand where elephants that have been victimized by mistreatment through illegal trekking and logging techniques are cared for and protected.
Students in grades 5-7 have been working in shifts, giving up part of their lunchtimes to work at the fundraising table set up on stage, displaying pillows, bracelets, elephant cookies, items to be raffled off and posters explaining the plight of the elephant and trends toward extinction caused by poaching and mistreatment by humans.
Fourth-graders started a “penny war” to benefit the fundraising cause.
Last year, fundraising efforts to adopt elephants in Africa through a wildlife trust started with students in grade 5 and spread to grades 6 and 7.
ICC seventh-grade teacher Lara Marotta has been able to incorporate students’ activities into the Common Core curriculum.
“Persuasive essays on global awareness fit into Common Core,” Marotta said. “It’s a great vehicle for literature and a Social Studies piece. The students are so driven by the topic that they don’t realize they are learning.
“At their age, there are a lot of things that they can’t do anything about. This is something that they can be passionate about and act on,” said Marotta.
Fifth-grade teaching assistant Mary-Eileen Cox visited the Elephant Nature Park in Chiang Mai, Thailand for three days in October, returning with stories and photos of the elephants and their caregivers in the park.
“It was an amazing place to visit,” Cox said. “We stayed in a treehouse. We could hear the elephants beneath us.”
As a visitor to the park, Cox was allowed to bathe, feed and observe the elephants in the park. In the treehouse, she slept under mosquito netting hung over her bed and wrapped under the mattress.
“I’d like to do it for a month,” Cox said, reflecting on her visit to the park.
Information on the elephant nature park can be found at: www.elephantnaturepark .org
Students interviewed were able to intelligently explain their personal reasons for fundraising.
“If they don’t stop poaching and trekking, in nine years the elephants will be gone. We don’t want to be the generation that lets them go out,” said fifth-grader Abbey Wood.
“We have to help raise awareness of how people are hurting the elephants in Thailand. When my little brother is my age, he won’t even know what elephants are,” said fifth-grader Logan Johnson.
“We’ve raised over $600 in about a month and we’re trying to raise $1,000,” said fifth-grader Katherine Heimroth.
“If elephants go extinct, it will affect our entire ecosystem,” said seventh-grader Kelsey Coons.
“Elephants are one of my favorite animals. I love how they’re tall and they have personalities and how they care and comfort the babies,” said seventh-grader Madeleine Reynolds.
“I want more people to be aware of the situation and help save them. We won’t think about elephants until they are gone,” said seventh-grader Alyssa Mavrides.
Middle School Principal Tim Farley said he is proud of the students. “It shows the kids that they can have an impact on any part of the world,” he said.