Lakeridge Elementary students delve into crucial causes

‘Merchants with a Cause’ event raises funds for nonprofits.

When the outstretched line of Lakeridge Elementary School parents filed into the gym, students beamed with excitement and were eager to discuss the crucial causes they researched and raise funds to benefit a trio of nonprofit organizations.

Students’ voices filled the air, hands waved to draw their parents’ attention, homemade products were sold and the “Merchants with a Cause” event was en route to becoming a rousing success.

On the morning of June 7, a total of 71 students in grades 3-5 positioned themselves at rows of tables filled with their products and displays of their causes accentuated with essays, photos and infomercials airing on iPads. The robust presentations were creative, impressive and inspiring to parents and teachers alike, said third-grade teacher Heather McLyman.

Some of the causes that the HiCap (highly capable) program students delved into and penned persuasive and informative essays about were Action Against Hunger, Charity: Water, UNICEF, Team Seas, Move for Hunger and more. Fifth-graders focused on social justice issues, fourth-graders selected environmental issues and third-graders targeted issues that related to their family interests.

After selling items like plants, bookmarks, keychains, pillows, stuffed animals and more to their parents, the instructors announced a grand total of $1,227 to be headed to Nature Conservancy Australia ($453.99 from third-graders), One Tree Planted ($368.10 from fourth-graders) and Stand Up for Kids ($404.91 from fifth-graders).

McLyman joined fellow instructors Jennifer Wytaske and Elizabeth Holland in getting kids collaborating and learning from each other in the sixth annual program.

“We wanted each of the kids to think about service learning or thinking outside of themselves. Have a more global perspective,” said McLyman, adding that the kids have become passionate about their causes of choice while finding which ones are reputable, effective and innovative.

McLyman said they keep the month-long unit fresh by having the students change the theme of their causes each year.

“So, by the time they get to fifth grade, they’re thinking about social justice issues, human rights issues, civil rights issues. We make them think a little bit deeper because they’re older and they’re a little bit more worldly and have a little bit more experience,” she said.

Fifth-graders Lucy Hao and Anya Patel researched UNICEF (United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund) and Action Against Hunger, respectively.

Hao is impressed with UNICEF’s productivity by working in more than 190 countries and territories and earning multiple awards along the way.

Patel discussed the importance of Action Against Hunger: “I chose the cause because where I come from, hunger is a really big problem, like famines, so I wanted to find an organization that works in India.”

Over in the fourth-graders’ section of the market, William Nystrom said that he’s on board with Team Seas, which helps with ocean cleanup.

“I just love the ocean. I can’t bear thinking about all fish just running into trash and dying. It’s just so sad to me,” he said.

Third-grader Maeve Starbird enjoyed learning about her other classmates’ causes and placed her focus on the Jane Goodall Institute and protecting endangered primates.

“I feel that we should conserve these intelligent, human-like primates and their habitats,” she wrote in her essay.

She added at the event: “I picked this cause because I think that generally, the endangered primates — chimpanzees, gorillas and bonobos — are the homo sapien species’ closest living relatives right now.”

Fourth-grader William Nystrom researched Team Seas, which helps with ocean cleanup. Andy Nystrom/ staff photo

Fourth-grader William Nystrom researched Team Seas, which helps with ocean cleanup. Andy Nystrom/ staff photo

Third-graders check out the variety of causes on display. Andy Nystrom/ staff photo

Third-graders check out the variety of causes on display. Andy Nystrom/ staff photo