Students in kindergarten through 8th grade at Michigan City Area Schools recently joined thousands of students across the country to celebrate “Better World Day.” This nationwide event is part of EL Education, a curriculum for language arts used by MCAS that culminates by combining classroom lessons with real-world projects that benefit the community.

“When we apply lessons learned in the classroom to actual issues in our community, our students learn that they are capable of making a difference,” said Cathy Bildhauser, MCAS Director of Curriculum. “Schools are a place for learning, but also for building active citizens with the power to bring positive change.”

As schools across the country marked Better World Day on May 6, students in Michigan City launched several student-led projects across the district targeting the environment, self-awareness, and helping those in need – with each grade level from all eight elementary schools and both middle schools lending a hand.

The Better World Day theme at Marsh Elementary School was “Marsh Tigers Lend a Paw.” This engaged Marsh students in collecting supplies and making treats for animals at the Michiana Humane Society, donating artwork to residents at Life Care Center of Michigan City, giving messages of hope to residents at Aperion Care Arbors, and donating supplies to youth at local homeless shelters.

At Springfield Elementary all grade levels took part in cleaning up different parts of the community. After learning about wildlife and the environment, groups of students held clean-up days at Washington Park, the beachfront, and Washington Park Zoo. They also visited the Michiana Humane Society and Fried’s Cat Shelter, where they spent time reading to, grooming, and playing with the animals.

Joy Elementary constructed two mailbox-sized Community Food Pantries located on school grounds. Work included assembling, painting, and installing the pantries; creating promotional flyers; cleaning the school grounds; and a school-wide food drive to fill the pantries. These pantries are now open for the public to donate or receive food as needed.

Lake Hills Elementary’s projects centered on a “Life Is Beautiful” theme, celebrating the natural beauty of the building and surrounding area. Students’ school beautification projects included a display of recycled art projects, sand art, and a rock art installation in front of the school. They also constructed bird and butterfly houses, cleaned up school property, and painted totem poles and picnic tables for outdoor spaces – some incorporating game boards.

Knapp Elementary made its school courtyard the focus of Better World Day. Every class helped out by adding something to the newly spruced-up area, including bird houses, stepping stones, and windchimes. Students also built and painted benches, and planted sunflower seeds, hostas, and ornamental grasses.

Edgewood Elementary celebrated Better World Day by beautifying its school grounds, as well. While learning about the environment, students cleaned up around the school and the center courtyard, planted flowers, and created artwork that celebrated making the world a better place – now and for future generations.

Coolspring Elementary students also focused on their school grounds. After each grade level took part in planting a tree on the school property on Arbor Day, they wrapped up the beautification project by adding bird houses and bat houses, planting flower seeds, and cleaning up the school property. Each first grader was given a tree seedling to plant at home.

Pine Elementary students focused their Better World Day projects on helping the citizens of Ukraine. Among the students’ projects were a food drive, creating cards of support and a mural of positive messages, and a school-wide penny war that raised more than $1,300 for refugee aid organizations. Students and teachers also wore blue and yellow in support of Ukraine on Better World Day.

At Krueger Middle School, eighth-graders pitched in to clean up two courtyard gardens, transforming one into a Zen Butterfly Garden. Other students painted “kindness rocks,” made cards for teachers and family members, and created posters and grocery bags to raise awareness about recycling and other environmental issues. A large mural is also taking shape in the school’s front hallway – students’ rendition of Katsushika Hokusai’s “Under the Wave off Kanagawa – The Great Wave.”

Barker Middle School students are continuing to celebrate Better World Day by collaborating with other schools in the district during the month of May. Seventh- and eighth-grade students from Barker have been visiting elementary schools to work with younger students on projects that teach active listening; showing and developing empathy; and learning about emotions.