By SCOTT AUST
Director of Communications/Finney County Economic Development
HOLCOMB — Wiley Elementary second-graders Justin Rodney, Ryan Wickwar, Kale Johnson and Conner Milligan beamed with pride on Friday morning as they hoisted an oversized check made out to the Finney County Humane Society for $6,070 — the amount they and their fellow classmates raised as part of a project-based learning activity this past spring.
When asked how many books he read as part of the project, Justin shrugged.
“I don’t know. I read like three sheets — that’s like 60 books,” he said, adding that he normally likes to read chapter Pokémon books, and also that the Humane Society needed help to provide enough food at the shelter.
“That’s why we chose to do this,” he said. “So now, if there’s a bunch of dogs, they can just get a bunch of food.”
A total of 80 second-graders at Wiley Elementary in Holcomb participated in the effort. The students’ goal was to read 1,000 books but they read 2,560 books. Each student kept a log of the books they read which their parents had to sign off on.
FCHS Executive Director Nikki Spanier said the students visited the shelter and also wrote handwritten letters to businesses seeking donations in March and then started the reading project April 1.
“We presented several problems. They all went back to the classroom and talked about which one they wanted and how they were going to solve the problem. They picked ‘too many animals in the community.’ We talked about spaying and neutering, and we talked about not enough food and supplies,” Spanier said.
Businesses and individuals making donations included Tyson, McDonald’s, American Warrior, Lucas Parker, Charlie Milligan, Mid-America Millwright Services, Feldt Guttering, JR Radio, First National Bank of Syracuse, Sunflower, James and Stephanie Herrel, Mike and Judy O’Brate, Leona Wiederstein, and Garden City Electric Division.
The money will be used to help pay for spaying and neutering animals at the shelter and purchase supplies to support the animals.
Christina Milligan said her son, Conner, and other boys enjoy reading a series called Dog Man, and Conner also read the book, “Holes,” which was made into a movie. She added that he had to read the book first before he was allowed to watch the movie.
“I loved that it’s teaching the kids to give back,” Milligan said about the project.
Second grade teachers Staci Kennedy, Karie Roth, Mindy Cornelsen and Martha Symmonds said the fundraiser was part of the school’s Project Based Learning activity. Roth said the Humane Society came in and talked to the kids about a problem and then the students brainstormed ways to help and came up with reading books and seeking donations from the community.
Kennedy said the kids blew the goal of 1,000 books out of the water.
“It’s pretty incredible,” Kennedy said. “We’re blown away, overwhelmed with how excited we were that we got the kids involved and working so hard. And there are so many awesome businesses in the community that wanted to be part of it. So we’re thrilled.”