RANDOLPH TOWNSHIP — A year-end adventure in multi-disciplinary learning for seventh- and eighth-graders at Maplewood High School has earned more than $3,600 for a pair of local charities.

As the result of a 10-kilometer walk-a-thon combining curricular areas such as wellness, math and language arts with community service, Crawford County Humane Society and the Meadville Salvation Army will each be on the receiving end of slightly more than $1,800 when twin checks are hand-delivered later this week.

Cross-curricular thematic units, where a common theme unites classroom studies in several different disciplines, have become increasingly common in PENNCREST School District following introduction of the middle school concept at Maplewood, Cambridge Springs and Saegertown high schools.

A cross-curricular venture involving both seventh and eighth grades, however, was something new for the Maplewood faculty. “We wanted to do something that was combined,” seventh-grade learning support teacher Pam Post explained. “We thought, ‘Why don’t we do something community-service oriented and get the kids involved with that?’ ” A walk-a-thon during the last week of school seemed like the perfect choice.

With approximately 250 students in the combined grades, teachers set a goal of $2 per student and selected two well-known local charities. “If we raised $500, we would be able to give each of our charities $250 — and that would be a good thing,” she said.

When representatives from both organizations visited the school several months ago, students from both grades gathered in the gym for presentations. “The visit was great for the kids,” Post said. “They could ask questions and really find out more about these organizations. That was part of it, too, because sometimes these kids don’t realize what people are doing out in the community.”

Walking for good causes

What happened next surprised everyone.

The kids put their hearts into the project — and the money came pouring in. Estimating that he asked about 35 people for contributions, eighth-grader Jason Peters topped the list by collecting $400. He was followed by seventh-grader Megan Rice, who collected $316, and eighth-grader Travis Wright with $200.

All of the funds collected by the students are going directly to the charities, but area businesses and organizations also jumped on board, contributing gift certificates and prizes to inspire the participants. The students walked two laps around a 3.2-mile loop circling the school’s property to complete the required 10K. “The trail was sort of muddy, but it was really nice,” said seventh-grader Kaitlynn Howard.

H. LeRoy Stearns, director of the humane society, was blown away by the results. “I’m excited. I’m very pleased,” he said. “It never ceases to amaze me how much young people can accomplish.”

Stearns said the money will be put to good use. With work about to begin on a major renovation project at the shelter, which was built in 1972 and needs two new furnaces and a new roof, “This will help us with the effort,” he said.

Student response has inspired the Maplewood faculty. “We’re already planning for next year,” Post said. “It’s definitely going to be an annual event. I already have my 2007 list of things we need to tweak.”

Among things that will probably be adjusted are both the length of the walk-a-thon and the time allotted to complete it. To put it bluntly, Maplewood kids are in much better shape than their teachers thought they were. “Next year, we think we’re going to up it to 20K, because they’re doing 10K with no problem,” Post said. “We allowed two-and-a-half hours, but the cross-country team was running six-minute miles, so they were done in about half an hour.”

Mary Spicer can be reached at 724-6370 or by e-mail at mspicer@meadvilletribune.com

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