Educational Services Center Laketown Elementary

Valentine’s Day for elementary students is usually about decorating a box and then having classmates stuff it with cards and candy. A staple at these classroom parties is usually the candy hearts stamped with all kinds of phrases and messages—sometimes sweet, sometimes hokey. Three fifth-grade students at Laketown Elementary decided to put a twist on this Valentine’s Day ritual that is sure to warm anyone’s heart.

“We were reading nonfiction, and we had to research something related to the topic that we were reading about. So, we chose homelessness,” Maya, a fifth-grade student in Ms. Heldt’s reading class, said.

Students worked together to find out more about their topic and then had to decide what they can do to take some action—do something about what they were learning about. Maya, along with her classmates Jenna and Olivia, wanted to do something to help homeless people in Minnesota. They researched which items are most needed by homeless people at this time of year.

“I was in charge of finding out what they need,” Maya commented. “I found a lot of good information online, and we chose items that we figured would be reasonable for wintertime and we put that together.”

Students then sent letters home with their classmates, detailing what they would like them to bring to school for Valentine’s Day—in addition to their treats to share.

“We didn’t know how much we would get, but this is a lot of stuff,” Olivia said as she walked around, making sure everything was in place. “We have hats, scarves, gloves, hand warmers, Chapstick, socks, snacks—just a lot of things for them.”

Olivia, Maya, and Jenna grouped all the items together in a commons area at the school and invited their classmates to grab a bag, walk around to each station, and create a care package.

“I normally just like helping out; I like helping people who are in need,” Jenna smiled as she watched the care packages being made. Olivia added, “I hope people who get these are happy and know that we are thinking about them.”

The packages will be donated to the St. Stephen’s Homelessness Advocacy Team in Minneapolis and also to a new drop in location of Launch Ministry that will be opening in Waconia.

“It’s amazing that they have the ability to know the needs of homeless people even though it’s something that we don’t see in Waconia,” Tricia Heldt, fifth-grade teacher, said. “They know that they are surrounded by adults who give them the ability to bring their ideas to life. It’s not like they say, ‘oh, I’m a kid so I can’t chase my ideas’; rather, it’s, ‘oh, I’m a kid and they’re all going to believe in me so I can find a way to make this happen.’ These kinds of projects take their visions to a new level, and it shows them that their ideas are valuable.”

“I hope the people who get these packages think this is a good idea,” Maya concluded as she surveyed the mounting pile of packed bags.