This morning I packed up all of the donations in the back of my car and made my way to Vassalboro Community School in Vassalboro, Maine; the home of Miss Roy’s, third grade classroom and site for which operation backpack was to commence.
I snuck in while the students were at lunch… Miss Roy greeted me outside the door with her cart and we loaded it up and made our way to the classroom. A little insider information, I have known Miss Roy for a number of years, we work together in our other careers as servers. This was my first time seeing her as a teacher and visiting her classroom.
When I arrived she gave me a little tour and quickly caught me up to speed on what her students had been learning. I was impressed when she showed me the map pulled down and focused on Central America. My name was on her board and so were the words Nicaragua and Central America. She showed packets she made for the Nica, children, each packet contained something special about Maine. A print out of North America, Maine, snowflakes, snowmen, the chickadee (our state bird), pine tree, honey bee, blueberries, and a lobster.
She had the students desks all set up in a square facing in the middle of the room, where we wheeled in the cart and waited their arrival from recess. Miss Roy then showed me some of the letters the children have been writing to send with me too. They are beautiful. Each child will be writing at least one to stuff in the backpacks in hopes that they will get one back when I return.
Then one by one, each of the sunshiny faces of Miss Roy’s 20 third grade students arrived and took their seats. Miss Roy introduced me to the students who were excited to listen and talk to me. We first talked about where I am going and what I am doing. Each student had a chance to ask and answer a questions and share a little about themselves. We talked about Nicaragua, where it is on the map. What the primary language is there and who might know some Spanish words…Thank you Miss Dora the Explorer many of these students know a lot!
We learned the Spanish word for school "Escuela" teacher "Maestro" and children "Ninos" we talked about differences in their lives in U.S.A. and Nicaraguan children’s lives. We talked about family sizes, and how children in Nicaragua (much like that of the Guatemala) have to work to help support their family and often don’t get to go to school. We talked about the rainforest and what happens when too many trees are cut and what happens to the animals. Miss Roy’s class is full of bright and attentive young people. Then it was time to ask for backpack helpers. When I asked if anyone would like to help me stuff a backpack for the children in Nicaragua every child 'ooohed and ahhhed and wiggled in their chairs.' I was beside myself with joy…I wanted to cry.
Miss Roy and I passed out our make shift backpacks (ziplock bags) to every student. Then we passed out each item going in the bag. Respecting the public school philosophy in the U.S.A. an item not shown that will be packed later is a Spanish bible. I also am enclosing a scent from home a handmade bar of blueberry scented soap. Every child was thrilled to have a hand in stuffing the bags.
Then it was time to reveal one of two surprises Miss Roy and I had for her class. At the bottom of the cart were two blue bags and a yellow bucket. I said, "The children in Nicaragua are very grateful for your gift and your hard work and as a reward we all want you to have a backpack of your very own." Everyone became excited! I asked for some helpers. The helpers helped me take everything out of the bags and place them on their desks. Miss Roy called out the names of two children at a time until everyone had their gifts. When everyone had their gift all the children wanted to know how to say thank you in Spanish "Gracias" was heard from every desk.
Then it was time for surprise number two…a special snack.
Chips & Salsa! While we had our snack we learned some more Spanish by using our flash cards. We said our numbers 1-10 and our colors. The children asked lots of questions about lots of things…Spanish, English, Applebees and Nicaragua. It was wonderful to get to know them. As the clock ticked closer to the end of the day Miss Roy had the students ready the room for going home and everyone sat in the middle of the room on the floor waiting for the bus to be called.
In my heart, a good day, I know was had by all: