School teaches a lesson in charity; Pupils sending allowance, lunch money to children after Turkish earthquake


Kids helping kids and learning along the way.

That's the idea behind Deer Park Elementary School's Helping Hands project, in which the Baltimore County pupils donate change to aid Turkish children affected by a recent earthquake.

Although few children attending the Randallstown school knew where Turkey was, they understand more about its varied geography, culture and deadly earthquakes.

"Before we started on this project, they couldn't tell the difference between an earthquake and a hurricane," said second-grade teacher Karen Dolan, who proposed the project after reading newspaper articles about the earthquake Aug. 17 centered in Izmit, Turkey, and recalling her experiences during a 1994 quake that rocked the Los Angeles area.

Deer Park pupils have taken to the project, bringing pocket change and allowance money in their classrooms after lunch.

For every dollar collected, teachers place a small hand on a wall outside the school's office. Since the children began the fund-raiser Sept. 15, they have collected about $150.

Dolan hopes the youngsters will save enough money to create a long line of hands that will wrap around a corridor in the school. A map on the wall, with the red and white Turkish flag, shows pupils the country's location.

The children are proud of their small-coin contributions and newly acquired knowledge.

"Earthquakes make the ground split open and all the streets crack," said Kwasi Bandoh, a 7-year-old in Dolan's class.

"Sometimes people die, though," adds Martel Gaynor, Kwasi's classmate, also 7.

Dolan went to great lengths to explain the force of an earthquake to her pupils. She rocked a pupil's desk, with a pen and paper on top, to simulate the way an earthquake jolts an area. She clipped newspaper articles about the earthquake, including one of 4-year-old Ismail Cimen, who was trapped for six days under the rubble.

Her pupils wrote letters to Ismail, asking him about the experience.

"I wanted to know what it was like, how did it feel to be without water and food," said Riah Ritter, 7.

"I wanted to know if his family was worried about him," said Daryl Hollingsworth, 7.

When collecting money for the fund, pupils take a few minutes to count pennies, nickels, dimes, and quarters, which helps sharpen math skills.

Still, Deer Park Principal Beth Strauss said that the project isn't just about loose coins, but about developing a spirit of giving that will stay with pupils. "It's important that the kids know what it's like to help other people," she said.

Deer Park will donate the money to Save the Children, a nonprofit group supplying Turkish earthquake victims with medicine, clothes and food.

Pub Date: 9/27/99

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