“We recently had a day called Giving Tuesday,” says their teacher, Sue Neuman. “We decided to extend it to the entire month of December and do Giving December. They decided as part of that, they wanted to give to Toys for Tots.”
Rather than simply collect toys, which may have been bought by the students’ parents, Neuman says she thought it was important that the students do the shopping themselves. For most of them, their parents gave them money, but they’ll be the ones doing the gift selecting.
At the store, the students take the task rather seriously. Three boys in the class, Trevor Grey, Julian Meckle, and Ethan Muenkle, walk the aisles a few times. In one of their warmup rounds, they laugh while looking at silly stuff — party favors, Silly String. But when they start focusing, they take on a thoughtful tone. When the other two boys suggest a toy that ejects flying disks into the air, Trevor Grey shakes his head and puts it back on the shelf. “Someone could hurt themselves with that,” he says.
The rest of the class is making careful decisions, too. Addison DeVault says she thought about getting Play-Doh, but she’s worried it’ll dry out too quickly, and she wants something that’ll last. Sarah Geiling and Kaley Mola are looking for toys that either a boy or a girl could enjoy. All of the students want to get as much as they possibly can, and they’ve noticed sale signs throughout the aisles.
Neuman makes rounds, stopping to confer with groups and encouraging them to use their math skills to figure out how much a buy-one-get-one-half-off sale will save them. Eventually, she steps back and lets them do their thing.
“Our school is in the process of becoming an International Baccalaureate school,” she says, watching the students pool their toys into one cart. “Part of that is learning compassion and taking care of one another. This is really a great example of those lessons.”
With their shopping done, the students and their teacher make their way to the registers, where the students stand as one big group, with Neuman at the front. A few customers try to get in line with one or two things and find themselves waiting, confused by the gaggle. Some leave, but others smile when they find out what’s going on. “It’s awesome that you’re doing this,” says one woman, addressing the class.
Back on the bus, the students each clutch a Dunkin’ Donuts bag — Neuman treated them each to a doughnut for their good deed. They chat merrily about the trip they’ve just taken and wonder how much jealousy their doughnuts will inspire in their fellow students once they get back to school.
Kaley Mola sits contentedly amid her fellow classmates. She moved to town about six months ago and she’s liking her new school. Asked if she’d ever taken a trip like this at her last school, she says “Never in a million years,” with a bit of a good-natured eye roll toward the old school, which she says had much bigger class sizes.
“I love it here,” she says. “We get to do a lot.” With that, she smiles and settles into the ride, looking out the window and watching the views of Route 100 pass by.