Brigid Duffy cut a long, colorful strip from a page in a magazine, wound it tightly around a bright straw and then sealed it with glue. A friend asked Brigid, a second-grader at St. Roch School, if she wanted to work together making paper beads to craft into a bracelet.
“How many beads do we have so far?” Brigid asked, counting out four on the table. “We need eight to make a bracelet.”
Students at the school in the West End neighborhood of St. Louis were making simple toys and jewelry from recycled materials to send to children in mission countries. The project idea, which came via the Missionary Childhood Association, was to gain a deeper cultural understanding of how children in developing countries create toys every day with what resources they might have available to them. Students also made wooden cars and tic-tac-toe sets.
The project at St. Roch kicked off a week of celebrations in recognition of Catholic Schools Week. Principal Karin Hiatt said the toys were one way in which students are learning about what it means to be part of the Body of Christ.
“Our prayer service this morning focused on all the parts that make our Catholic school thrive,” said Hiatt. “We talked to the kids about if you don’t have the teachers, you don’t have the students, if you don’t have the parents supporting your school, then without those pieces, we don’t thrive as well as when all of the parts are working together.”
Hiatt cited the theme of “Living in Harmony with God’s Creation,” which includes learning about and serving God’s creation. “We said, how can we serve kids who don’t have what we have? They came up with the toys as something they could share with other children.”
Hiatt also noted that service at home is just as important. Upper grade students visited the Missionaries of Charity soup kitchen during Catholic Schools Week to serve a meal. The students visit the soup kitchen every other week throughout the school year.
Students recently raised money for Heat up St. Louis, which assists elderly and disabled people, and low-income families with heating utilities; and Operation Food Search, which distributes needed items to food pantries across the area. (St. Roch pastor Msgr. Salvatore Polizzi was one of the co-founders of Operation Food Search, which opened in 1981.)
“It helps them to understand that in serving others, don’t forget our community and the people in front of us,” Hiatt said.
Seventh-graders and their first-grade buddies painted and decorated cars made from scraps of wood. First-grader Zoe Taylor adjusted small red and yellow craft sticks on the back end of the car, which had been painted earlier in the week by her seventh-grade buddy Brandon Robinson.
“These are lightning bolts, and the rest are flames,” said Zoe, who was quite proud of her handiwork. Her classmate Dean Willis, who stopped by to inspect her project, said he would enjoy playing with the car if someone gave him one. “I would be so happy, I would play with it all the time,” he said.
Seventh-grade teacher Paul Shaver said that service is an integral part of the school’s mission. By raising awareness of the missions, the students learn “that even little things make a difference.”
Other Catholic Schools Week activities at St. Roch included an eighth-grade faculty volleyball game, parents day at lunch, geography and spelling bees and a board game day.