In the world of education and teaching, you never know what lesson will motivate students to bigger and better understanding. Recently, in Kelly Smith’s fourth-grade social studies classes at Lincoln Elementary School, one of these larger-than-life experiences began to unfold.

The students were talking about the major buildings in Washington, D.C. The teacher was discussing the White House, the Capitol building, the Pentagon and several other famous and important buildings. She explained about the American Red Cross building. Students asked questions about the use of that particular building, which led to a discussion about how busy the Red Cross now is because of Hurricane Sandy causing damage on the East Coast.

Smith explained about all the devastation and all of the people who were homeless, without food and without the means to fulfill their basic needs as humans on a daily basis. The class started to role play and then began to understand what it would be like to not have these basic needs met — needs relating to shelter, food and clothing. One student asked what the class could do and if there was a way for us, clear out here in Kansas, to help. Smith talked about the help the American Red Cross gives, but like always in this kind of devastation, there typically is more need than money to help.

The teacher gave her students a challenge, telling them she would match — penny for penny — what the fourth-graders brought in to help the hurricane victims. The fourth-grade students in all of her social studies classes became really excited and started working to bring their money to school for the American Red Cross. In very few days, the students’ and the teacher’s match totaled $252.25. They were really excited and proud of their accomplishment ... but, interestingly enough, the story doesn’t end here.

Becky Blaue, Lincoln’s school counselor, decided to take it a step further. She received help from Josh Robinson, the school’s principal, and came up with a plan: Recess Relief for Red Cross.

On Nov. 20, during the last 45 minutes of the day before Thanksgiving vacation, the special education teachers volunteered to do an extra recess duty. Any student who donated for the “Recess Relief for Red Cross” fund would get an extra 15-minute recess. The students went home and brought back their birthday money, their allowances, their life savings and any other money they could find. One second-grader brought $23 of his money, which he had worked odd jobs for, because he knew it was so important to help those in need. Some brought pennies, nickels and dimes — but many brought more, willing to share with others.

I am sure that if those students would have been in class, they would have learned something but I am willing to bet these students will remember this special recess relief forever. The families need to be commended for their work and contributions. The grand total raised by the students over just four or five days was nearly $700. Totaled with the match money, the overall grand total was more than $900. The money now has been sent to the American Red Cross Disaster Relief Fund. Thank you, teachers and staff, for encouraging your students to learn about giving. They will be the real winners.

Marge Stevens is an Ottawa school board member.