By Casey Hans
There are lessons in math, customer service and good eating at Carpenter Elementary each Friday morning.
The Ann Arbor school’s cafeteria is full of students and families for the weekly Bagels & Bottles for Kids, a program run by third- and fourth-graders that is still going strong in its 10th year. A variety of bagels (vanilla cinnamon is the top-seller) are offered for $1 each, with proceeds going to school programs.
Coordinated by the teaching team of Marilyn Freeman and Sandra Luce, the program shows students how to manage money, deal with the public and run a small business. Third-graders work all year to earn the right to be “cashiers” and handle money when they enter the fourth grade, the teachers said. Third- and fourth-graders all get a chance to work during the school year. And, the students vote on how the money raised will be spent.
“We started it initially because times were tough,” said Freeman. “We felt field trips gave students a different kind of learning experience and, because some kids couldn’t afford to go, teachers were spending $20 to $50 out of their pocket.”
Luce said it’s a weekly event that students, parents and teachers look forward to. “It becomes this whole community thing,” she said, adding that students enjoy the experience while learning. “They learn about supply and demand and how we should change our order for next week.”
Bagels & Bottles helps with field trip costs and buys books for children. Students also consider requests from teachers for other programs. The program raises some $3,000 each year, of which $1,000 goes to the Reading is Fundamental program, which is now funded with private donations after federal funding stopped a few years ago.
PTO Vice President and RIF coordinator Pam Powell said the program is the only way the school has been able to keep RIF alive, giving at least three books to every student each year and donating other books to the school library. Carpenter has had a RIF program for 30 years and has won two state titles for its effort.
“I try to be here to buy breakfast every Friday” to support the program, she added.
Over the years, Bagels & Bottles for Kids has expanded to include a table for fifth-graders who sell juice to raise money for their field trips, and a PTO table that sells school spirit wear and scrip cards to benefit the school. During Girl Scout cookie season, troops also come to the gym and set up a cookie table, the teachers said.
Parent Lisa Beam oversees the fifth-grade fundraising and said there is no schedule for participation: Students just show up to work at the table. “I tell them this is (for) your field trip. You need to learn how to make change, to deal with people,” she said.
The idea for the program came from former school librarian Lydia Trachett, who first hosted it in the library. As it grew larger, it was moved to the cafeteria. Although students now just sell bagels (they used to collect returnable bottles too), it has maintained its popularity over the years and often parents arrive to have breakfast with their kids before heading for work.
Parent Jeff Vicars was at school on a recent Friday with son Aaron, who was working behind the bagel table, and daughter Abby with whom he was sharing a bagel. “I think it’s great seeing the families interacting,” he said, adding that the students learn a lot of life and business skills. “Everyone who does well (in life) learns to do good customer service.”
Casey Hans edits this newsletter for The Ann Arbor Public Schools. Email her or call 734-994-2090 ext 51228.