Giving Tree Project Teaches Students Value Of Generosity

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Rim Country Middle School eighth-graders are learning an important holiday lesson about giving through an innovative language arts unit developed by English teacher Michelle Gibbar.

Based on a story by popular children's author Shel Silverstein called "The Giving Tree," the four eighth-grade language arts classes have decorated a tree in Gibbar's classroom with practical gift items that will be donated to the Time Out domestic violence shelter for distribution to abused women and small toys and games for their children. The gifts for the women include items such as shampoo, bath wash, emery boards, and clear nail polish.

"It's a story about a tree that gives all it has to a little boy it loves," Gibbar said. "The tree gives its apples, its branches, even its trunk so the boy can build a boat and float away.

"At the end of the story the boy comes back when he has grown very old. The tree, now just a stump, regrets having nothing left to give," she said.

But the old man explains that he no longer needs much just a place to sit. That, of course, is the one thing the tree stump still has to give.

"The message the kids hopefully take away is that whatever gift they can give is good enough," Gibbar said.

The unit, which Gibbar calls the Giving Tree Project, is actually built around story writing and book publishing. This is the third consecutive year her students have written and self-published stories and decorated a giving tree in a corner of her classroom.

"There is a string of lights on the tree, and the rest of the decorations are the gifts the kids bring," Gibbar said. "The kids just go wild collecting items and decorating the tree."

Toys that are donated for the children include puzzles, books, crayons and even Barbie dolls. But it is in the simple items collected for the women that the true spirit of the project is most evident.

"The women who will receive the gifts are women who are having to start a whole new life," Gibbar said. "The gifts the students are giving the emery boards, the clear nail polish, the netted 'grungy' balls are all items that help them take off the rough edges so they are better able to succeed in their new endeavors."

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