The first grade students in Sarah Perra and Lisa Colantonio's classes at Waterman Elementary School have teamed up to adopt a local platoon of soldiers for this year, and they sent their first packages out in time for the holidays.
What they did not expect was the overwhelming response they received when the rest of the school heard about their project.
"We collected a ton of supplies, and we sent a first shipment of five boxes of stuff, but we still have four boxes left to send," Perra said.
She has had some experience in the past with adopting platoons outside of school, which is partly what inspired her to bring the service project to her classroom this year.
"In the past I worked with Soldier's Angels, and that was fun, a great experience. With our social studies curriculum for first grade, we talk about community helpers and the military do so much for us, this seemed like a great way to give back," she said.
The two teachers planned to incorporate several of the areas of study into the project throughout the year, including letter writing.
"We want to send a care package a month, and send them letters by email weekly as we teach letter writing," Perra said.
Within a few weeks of connecting with the platoon, Perra said that they would hear back from them as to what their specific needs might be.
"Our next collection will probably have some sort of winter theme to it with clothes and things like that," she said.
Colantonio hopes to work on New Year’s cards for the soldiers when the students return to school, to be included in the next outgoing packages.
The platoon that Waterman has adopted is a local group of soldiers.
"They deployed from Massachusetts to Afghanistan. They can't tell us much, but they have no drinking water, no running water. Their cafeteria is not open 24 hrs a day so that's why we figured we'd start with food first," she said.
Perra and Colantonio plan to also put in special reminders of home, such as including local sports stats in the various emails and letters that get sent overseas.
"We like to send some of the comforts of home," Perra said.
Colantonio feels good about helping the soldiers, especially at this time of year.
"It must be especially hard being away during the holidays," she said.
Perra also has a personal connection to the military, with family members serving now.
"I have a cousin who went to Iraq when the war started, now another one left on their third tour from August to June. They're in some remote place, counting the days until it's time to come home," she said.
Both teachers agree that the students are excited to continue their project when they return to school next week.
"It's very exciting; the kids are very excited," Perra said.