Sunday, August 09, 2020

Carmel Academy third grade students Misha Shteingart and Kayla Erickson of Greenwich shop for toys at Learning Express Toys in Rye Brook, NY.(Credit: Julie Lapin)

Carmel Academy third grade students Eden Citron and Neveh Yechiely shop for toys at Learning Express Toys in Rye Brook, NY. The toys were for children who attended the reunion at Sunrise Day Camp—a camp for children with cancer and their siblings. (Credit: Julie Lapin)

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Imagine being a child in a toy store with the go-ahead to purchase more than $1000 worth of toys?

In the days before Chanukah, Carmel Academy’s third graders did just that. They traveled to a toy store and purchased more than 100 toys—yet they did not keep even one toy for themselves. Instead, the students walked away with a different gift: the knowledge that they were part of a memorable and meaningful mitzvah.

The toys were for children fighting cancer, and the Carmel students spent a month raising the money to purchase the gifts, said third grade teacher Gina Perl.

It all began with a read-a-thon. The students committed to reading 20 minutes for 20 nights, asking their parents to sponsor them with a dollar for each night they read. Many students contributed money from their own allowance and asked other relatives for support. With additional contributions from Carmel teachers and community members, the students raised $1050, said third grade teacher Robin Shainberg.

The third graders counted the money—much of it in coins—and the next day traveled to Learning Express Toys in Rye Brook, NY. In pairs, each with a $95 budget, they chose toys for boys and girls of varying ages. After careful consideration they purchased 101 toys, which were given to Sunrise Day Camp, a free summer camp for children with cancer and their siblings. Each child who attended the camp’s December reunion received a surprise gift.

“Anything we can do to bring the real world into the classroom extends learning,” said Shainberg, who created this integrated chesed project with Carmel’s Lower School Math Specialist Hilary Machlis six years ago.

“We can do worksheets about counting money or we can count real money. We can learn about estimation in the classroom or we can go to a store and estimate how much our purchases will be as we pick out toys. We can talk about what a budget is or learn to stay within a budget while actually shopping. Reading, counting, estimating, mental math and budgeting were all part of this real-life lesson, but the best part was the mitzvah,” Shainberg said.

“Children buying presents for other children is the purest form of giving,” she said. “The students put aside their own wants and desires, and they worked hard in the toy store to shop with a purpose.”

“I really thought about what would kids my age and other ages like, and I also had to think about toys that girls would like,” said third grader Daniel Margolius.

Third grader Max MacDonald said he and his classmates felt proud to provide a surprise for kids and families going through challenging times.

“I felt very excited because I was doing a good deed for kids who are sick. We bought toys for them so they could have some fun and I also felt very grateful that my family is healthy,” Max said.

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