Crofton Woods Elementary School has declared war — on pennies?
There will be no Braveheart-esque scene of hundreds of elementary school students with painted faces storming the U.S. Mint. In fact, the Crofton Woods students seek no harm to be done to pennies — what “cents” would that make? Instead, the students are approaching this mission with a capture-the-flag mentality and their hopes are to corral several thousand POWs. And should friendships and alliances be forged along the way, well, all’s fair in love and war.
“It’s a good competition for the kids,” said Crofton Woods assistant principal Stacy Levery. “They like the excitement of competition.”
Each grade level is assigned a barrel to fill with pennies and the idea — first used by Crofton Woods to raise money for Japanese tsunami relief in 2011 — is to capture enough Abe Lincolns to donate a healthy amount to the Fisher House Foundation, which donates homes to be built at major military hospitals to house wounded warriors and their families during the recovery period. The competition of collecting pennies is hardly the end of the competition — each penny equals one point and for every silver coin found in a grade level’s penny barrel, that number of points is deducted from their final tally. For instance, if a student from first-grade teacher Amanda Kotz’s class adds a silver dollar to the second-graders’ barrel, 100 points will eventually be deducted from the total.
Do you see how Fisher House Foundation wins no matter what?
“We haven’t done it in a couple of years,” said Crofton Woods PTA community service committee chairwoman Chris Jackson. “The kids go nuts for it — they love it.”
While pennies are being hunted by Crofton Woods kids in some sort of ‘’Hunger Games’’ manner, the student body is benefiting the community elsewhere. On Tuesday, the 11th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, Crofton Woods students decorated cards for U.S. service members returning from deployment. In Kim Huyer’s second-grade class, some of the messages she suggested for the cards were, “You rock,” “You are a hero,” and “Thanks for your service.” Of course, Huyer let her students know that they were more than welcome to create their own messages for their cards. The soldiers “did an awesome job of protecting us,” she told her class. “Think about how important that welcome home message is gonna be.”
Creating cards to present to returning service members is certain to bring smiles to the faces of troops who have spent six to nine months in a foreign land. But when service members either make connecting flights or reach their final destination at BWI-Thurgood Marshall Airport on Thursday evening, the cards will be presented by the Crofton Woods students as they participate in Operation Welcome Home. Parents and school staff will accompany the kids to welcome back the men and women who have fought for American freedom abroad.
“I think (the kids) get the idea of who’s a hero and why and I think that’s exciting for them to consider that’s who they could be when they grow up,” Levery said. “I think (Thursday will) be touching in a lot of ways.”
Crofton Woods’ involvement in Penny Wars and Operation Welcome Home was coordinated by Jackson and the PTA. Jackson’s husband is active-duty Navy and not only has he been deployed aboard an aircraft carrier, but the couple frequently traveled aboard military flights. They have seen firsthand the smiles that Operation Welcome Home can elicit for recently deployed military personnel. She said she is happy that her children — two sons attend Crofton Woods — have experienced a military culture and have grown up with an understanding of how important it is to respect and support U.S. military at home and abroad.
“A lot of families don’t have constant contact with military members, but my experience has been if you bring up a military project, for example, Penny Wars, the response is overwhelming,’’ Jackson said. ‘’It’s really encouraging. I think we pride ourselves as a nation on how well we work together and respond. Both of those things are really important for our kids to remember.”
Operation Welcome Home was founded by veterans of past U.S. wars when service members were not greeted so warmly upon their return. But she said she believes it is more encouraging today to see how civilians and other military veterans show their support for the men and women who protect U.S. interests worldwide.
“I have to say — almost to a person — if you bring up a military service project or an organization like Operation Welcome Home of Fisher House civilians are very interested in participating and making a difference,” Jackson said.
From the view point of Levery and Crofton Woods principal John Barzal, watching the students’ eager participation in such community service projects gives them hope and encouragement that the next generation of American citizens are already being exposed to what it means to be a global citizen, which is also the signature program at Arundel High School. Levery credited the PTA for coordinating such projects, which she said “is a small investment of time, but a huge investment to the community.”
“We need to embrace the community and part of that is embracing the community heroes,” Levery said. “We look at our students as tomorrow’s leaders and they need to have a firm grasp of how to help one another and be supportive and collaborate.”
Pennies — you’ve been warned.