DECATUR — The sixth-graders at Durfee Magnet School have a theme for the year: Bring the classroom into the community and the community into the classroom.
“I'm teaching my students not how to be students, but how to be an active member of their community,” said teacher Sara Bodzin, who also lamented the use of data and test scores to rank students without an appreciation for them as well-rounded people.
"In 20 years, it's not going to matter what you got on a math exam in sixth grade," she said. "What's going to matter is that family you belong to or that group of seniors who's going to remember that sweet kid that read to them."
While brainstorming a project to do for November as part of a monthly outreach effort, the kids decided to do something Thanksgiving related for veterans.
“At first they wanted to make Thanksgiving dinner for veterans,” Bodzin said. “It was an amazing idea, but just unreachable at this point, so we decided to scale it back.”
The students then decided to make Thanksgiving dinner food baskets for disabled veterans and deliver them in person. They hope to provide boxes for five veterans.
“We are working with the (Veterans Administration) to get some names, but before we can get the names, we need to figure out what our budget is,” Bodzin said. “So the students are researching now how much it's going to cost. We've been raising money through a Facebook fundraiser to help with the costs. I know some students will be bringing in some of these items to donate as well.”
Students researched prices for each item on their list online, and it averaged out to about $40 per box. The class needs donations of food items (see box) and cash to make the project a reality.
“These veterans, a lot of them are disabled because of serving our country,” Bodzin said. “My brother's a veteran, and that's probably why this means so much to me. Everybody has someone they know, whether it's in church or somebody in their family or friends, who's a veteran.
"It's important they (the students) understand why we give back, and this was their idea.”
Student Na'Kiyah Cobb said she understands how important veterans are to freedom, and she wants to make sure they know they're appreciated. That's part of why delivering the boxes in person is part of the project.
“It's important for the veterans to know we respect them,” she said. “I'm going to say, 'Thank you for your service.'”
“They come home and they don't have any place to eat or sleep, and we should be helping them,” student Michel Tillman said.
Said Bodzin: "They're amazing kids, and it's important for the community to see what we're growing in these buildings," she said.