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Whiz Kids Of The Week: Oswegatchie Elementary School’s Fourth-Graders

Turning Clay Into Dollars; Turning Dollars Into Hope

It’s amazing what 75 pounds of clay can do.

A few weeks ago, after watching the devastation in Japan, Oswegatchie fourth-grade teacher Giuseppe Gencarelli decided he would do something with his students to raise money. Maybe they could buy rubber bracelets and sell them, he thought.

Then he talked to the school’s art teacher, Mary Hendrickson. Instead of just buying something, the students could make necklaces with Japanese symbols and sell them, she said.

Oswegatchie’s fourth-graders have been working nonstop ever since. The group has sold more than 600 necklaces and made over $2,300, and the demand continues, Gencarelli said.

“We are back-loaded right now,” he said. “We can’t keep up with the orders.”

Every art class, students pound and roll clay, cut circles and stamp Japanese symbols for friendship, good fortune and joy. Then the students must sell the jewelry, which has been incredibly popular, Hendickson said.

The kids must also figure out how much clay to buy (75 pounds in all), and the most efficient way to produce the necklaces. Then they keep track of the profit, all of which will be donated to Japan, she said.

“They are seeing what a little business is all about,” she said.

The necklaces sell for $2 apiece. Many people have given more though, such as one family that donated $250, Giuseppe said.

Student Reaction

On Monday, Patch went into an art class to watch the students build the necklaces. The tone was workmanlike, with the fourth-graders trying to figure out the best way to produce. One group even formed an assembly line.

“It is fun making them,” student Alex Fayan said. “I do a lot of the beating.”

And while many enjoy building the necklaces, many others like selling them more. Take J.J. Johnson for example, who sold them to every conceivable family member.

“I sold one to my sister, my mom, my dad and my other sister,” Johnson said. “It’s ridiculous.”

But helping out the Japanese is the best part of the whole thing, the students said. Any little bit can help, they said.

“We like it because it is going to take a long time to rebuild everything,” student Caroline Petchark said. “They need all the help they can get.”

Classmate Erik Glenon agreed.

“(The Japanese) are going through a lot of trouble,” Glenon said. “We need to help them.”

Not Possible Next Year?

A similar project would be far less likely next year, as students will have only one class period every six days in art, instead of two. The move is a cost-saving measure instituted by the board of education to .

Also, if it does happen, Hendrickson will not be around to teach it. She is one of .

Bright Spot April 05, 2011 at 03:19 PM
What a lovely and sad commentary on the Art program in our elementary schools... they are doing so much with a creative and dedicated teacher, and neither she nor the (twice a week) schedule will be around next year. I would have given up my raise to keep her around. -a teacher in Waterford
Paul Petrone (Editor) April 05, 2011 at 03:41 PM
It is not too late, the union can still change its mind. None of these positions are officially gone until June; and administration could rework the budget, and potentially save many of the jobs.

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