Bang for the Buck: Lesson in Community Service at Merrill

Claire Chell and Ellie Konfrst deliver a Wii system and games to Elsie Mason Manor.

It may seem like a dollar doesn’t buy much anymore, but don’t tell that to the sixth graders at Merrill Middle School. They were each given one solitary buck by the school’s PTA and the assignment to pay it as far forward as they could within the community. It was all part of their “Dollar Doing Good” project.

In the spirit of growing oak trees from acorns, Ellie Konfrst and Claire Chell pooled their working capital and called Elsie Mason Manor – across the street from the former location of their elementary school, the Downtown School – to see what was on the residents’ wish list. Then they set about soliciting matching donations from the community.

Last week, after raising $220, they delivered a Wii gaming system, providing the residents with a fun, communal way to exercise.

And theirs is just one example out of many.

Four weeks ago, science teachers at Merrill – one of the district’s International Baccalaureate World Schools – challenged each sixth grade student to do as much good in the community as possible with their single dollar of seed money. Community Youth Concepts provided a training to help the students identify areas of need in the community and methods to execute a community service project. 

Students then worked individually or in teams during this month long project. The only parameter was the project couldn’t directly benefit the student or their family. 

Last year, this project generated over $8,000 in cash donations, 1,700+ items, and over 200 hours of community service. This year, the project generated $8,356 in donations and more than 2,600 items, and worked with more than 40 charitable organizations throughout Des Moines.

On Tuesday, December 20 the students shared in their science classes what they accomplished and a sixth grade celebration of the importance of community service was also held which included making holiday cards for families in need in Des Moines and for military personnel serving overseas. 

Directed by their science teachers to conduct some experiments in community service, Ellie, Claire and their classmates at Merrill have seen the kinds of explosions that can happen when a couple of bucks are mixed with good ideas and some sixth-grade enthusiasm.

To see some photos of today’s event at Merrill, please click here.

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