| First Quarter 2013 |
There are twenty-seven sixth-year students at Raintree Montessori School, most of whom have attended Raintree since they were three years old. They have waited a very long time to be the oldest, and taking leadership seriously makes the preteens feel important. “We are the go to people!” said Walker Koberlein. “We have to be good examples,” added fellow classmate Spencer Yost-Wolff.
What responsibilities do these determined sixth-year students have? Beyond the usual academic requirements, these oldest students have additional math homework, challenging vocabulary studies, lead roles in the school play, doing on-campus community service projects, being mentors to younger students and a much-anticipated trip to Chicago.
For six days and five nights in May, they travel to Chicago for a learning field trip. It is a whirlwind nonstop adventure that takes these highly motivated students to study the history of Chicago and visit such Chicago landmarks as the Museum of Science and Industry, the Shedd Aquarium, Lincoln Park Zoo, the Navy Pier, Buckingham Fountain, Grant Park, the Planetarium and the House of Blues.
To help pay for the trip, the students work on several different business endeavors throughout the year developing new skills and learning how to fundraise for a shared goal.
The most visible of the fundraisers is the renowned Raintree Coffee Cart, which is managed by two revolving sixth-year students working in teams. The students have to prepare food at home, arrive at Raintree before 7:15 in the morning, set up, choose prices, sell baked goods, make change, and clean up. They try to practice what Lleanna McReynolds, Head of the School, taught them about good service: make the customers feel welcome, establish eye contact, smile, and take customer suggestions.
When asked what she thought her child learns while working Coffee Cart, Jenny Barton answered, “She learns to plan ahead and cater to what others need and want. She has learned about how price and quality affect what people are willing to buy. Also, she has learned about working with a partner.”
Partners are paired from two different classrooms. If a “worker” can’t go on her appointed day, she is responsible for getting a replacement and has to call and ask another sixth-year student to substitute.
Another fundraiser involves drawings to win gift baskets. Throughout the year, the students create different themed baskets according to the season or a holiday. Tickets are sold at various school events such as parent-teacher conferences, book fairs, parent afternoons, and sometimes at coffee cart.
Students also create and sell their own original math game boxes. They fill plastic containers with dragon tears, six dice, a math fact cheat sheet, two decks of playing cards, a score sheet note pad, paper game boards, and directions/rules to twelve different math games. Other original products students have made over the years include a biodegradable handmade laundry detergent and reproductions of famous artists’ work collectively created by the students. They advertise and sell their unique products at many of the school events throughout the school.
Local Lawrence businesses such as Cici’s, Bambino’s, Orange Leaf and Wheat State Pizza offer the Raintree students additional ways to earn fundraising dollars for their Chicago trip by hosting special nights for Raintree families and giving a percentage of their profits to the Chicago Fund. The local Hy-Vee stores give a percentage of receipts collected to the fund, too. These additional fundraisers are a definite benefit for the students, but just having them is not enough. The students are responsible for promoting the special nights around the Raintree campus. They create posters and flyers to make sure families are aware of the special fundraising nights and encourage participation to help reach their goals.
The students raise anywhere from $6,000-$8,000, but they also develop their personal skills in dealing with customers, keep track of the dollars and funds raised, and take pride in helping pay for their trip.
When graduates reminisce about their Raintree experience, it is often the trip to Chicago that continues to resonate. Many often return to the Windy City with their parents, the original trip itinerary in hand, to recapture the memories of a time when at a young age, they were given the opportunity to create businesses, earn money and reap the rewards.