Moraga Teacher Uses Art Project To Teach Kindergartners A Lesson On Helping Others

Saklan School kindergartners will auction off their artwork Thursday and Friday to raise money to buy gifts for children with cancer

Saklan School kindergartner teacher Amy Burnett with some of the art work by her students
Saklan School kindergartner teacher Amy Burnett with some of the art work by her students
Sometime next week, Saklan School kindergarten teacher Amy Burnett will give each of the 10 students in her Moraga classroom $100 in cash.

She will then drive the youngsters to a toy store in Danville that's opened early just for them.

The 5-year-olds, however, will not be purchasing gifts for themselves. They will be buying holiday gifts for children with cancer.

The kindergartners will also have earned the money by selling their own artwork at an auction the next two days at Saklan School, 1678 School St. in Moraga.

The auction is being held in Burnett's classroom from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. Thursday 
and from 8 a.m. to 9 a.m. on Friday.

"This is a lesson for them on who we are," said Burnett. "It shows them what one person does can greatly affect others."

Burnett started the annual holiday project six years ago when she wanted to combine social consciousness with the art curriculum she emphasizes in her class.

Burnett discovered the Nicholas Colby Fund, a non-profit organization that provides backpacks filled with books, toys and games to help entertain cancer-stricken children during long hospital stays.

The kindergarten teacher assigns seven different projects to each of her 10 students. Self-portraits, flowers and hearts are among the assignments.

The 70 works of art are then auctioned off during the holiday season. Burnett expects to raise about $1,000 this year.

She divides the money equally between the children and then they go to Games Unlimited in Danville, whose owner opens the store up a couple hours early for the Saklan students.

Burnett said in her six years of taking her students shopping during Christmas season with $100 in their hands, she has never had a single 5-year-old want to buy something for themselves.

"I think people underestimate young children," said Burnett. "They totally get into this."

Burnett said the project teaches the young students how actions can produce positive results in the world.

"They learn how little things you do can make a huge difference to others," she said.

Burnett said the children also get to use their imagination by doing the artwork and take pride in something they have created with their own hands.

Erin Cooley, whose daughter Lola is in Burnett's class, said the holiday auction is one of the reasons she signed up her child for the Moraga school.

"When they told me about it, i had tears in my eyes," said Cooley.

She adds it's incredible to watch these 5-year-old absorb the experience.

"It's an amazing thing that they learn," she said.

Mitu Ray December 12, 2013 at 12:24 PM
This is an absolutely incredible story of social awareness, but not just for the kindergartners. It is a lesson to adults of the innate human compassion present in all of us at an early age, that requires careful cultivation of the sort provided by Ms Amy. What amazing students under the tutelage of a remarkable teacher, under the support of a school's visionary mission statement. Kudos!
Oppelt December 12, 2013 at 02:03 PM
I love this idea and the execution thereof, it's just wonderful. It would be great for those not in Moraga be able to paypal or square an offer for a "blind" winning art piece. Could be a fun idea for those connected to Moraga (friends, family...) that are unable to attend or live elsewhere to be involved somehow.


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