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Anna Jordan (left) and Olivia Landess (right) sort stuffed animals with their Life Labs teacher Denise Williams.
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Riverchase Elementary's Life Labs workshop creates bookmarks to go along with donated books and stuffed animals.
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Olivia Landess creates a bookmark to give to the YWCA along with donated books and stuffed animals.
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Student Olivia Landess shows YWCA's Scottie Vickery the bag of stuffed animals their Life Labs workshop collected.
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Life Labs student Zoe Clements makes a bookmark to give with donated books and stuffed animals.
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Scottie Vickery from YWCA talks with Riverchase Elementary and Life Labs student Anna Jordan.
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Tatum Englett helps sort through donated books during her Life Labs workshop at Riverchase Elementary.
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Tatum Englett (left) and Olivia Landess (right) sort books with their Life Labs teacher Denise Williams.
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Riverchase Elementary student Olivia Landess helps sort through stuffed animals during her Life Labs workshop.
Four students at Riverchase Elementary School sifted through piles of books and stuffed animals after school on April 19, but they were not looking for books for themselves. Instead, they were looking for the best items to donate to the YWCA.
The students gathered the books and toys from friends, family, neighbors and their own rooms as part of a service project in their Life Labs workshop. As they were sorting, they set books with torn and tattered covers or well-worn stuffed animals to the side and filled a basket and a large bag with items in good condition.
Life Labs is a workshop that works to teach social and communication skills that are not normally taught in school. Students at Riverchase Elementary School meet every Tuesday to talk about things such as empathy, giving back and communication.
“We normally talk about life skills and watch videos,” fourth-grader Tatum Englett said. “There was a first semester and this semester, and I’ve only done this semester, but it’s been really fun so far.”
Another student, Anna Jordan, said she was glad to be able to give away some of her toys. She has a lot of stuffed animals at home, she said, and she is glad other kids will get to enjoy some of them.
On April 19, the students also created bookmarks and notes to give along with the books and toys. They wrote encouraging messages such as “Be the good you see in others” and “Be yourself.”
Retired Birmingham City Schools Principal Denise Williams is the teacher of the Riverchase Elementary Life Labs, and as the four students were creating bookmarks and sorting items, she discussed the things they have discussed, including empathy and identifying areas of need. She also encouraged the girls to incorporate helpfulness in their everyday lives.
Scottie Vickery, director of communications for the YWCA of Central Alabama, also attended the class to discuss the YWCA’s service and to pick up the donations. Vickery explained that sometimes other children will have to leave their homes quickly and have to leave behind most of their possessions. Those kids might also be scared when their families come to the YWCA and their shelter, she said, and the gifts could help them feel welcome and comfortable.
“It’s so great to be able to welcome them and give them a stuffed animal to love or a book to read,” Vickery said.