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Fifth graders' shopping trip teaches math and much more

Equipped with notebooks, pencils, shopping list, calculators and $500, fifth graders from La Grange Elementary School combed the aisles of Kinston’s Walmart in search of bargains, the logic behind a math equation and the joy of giving.

Three fifth grade boys shop at Walmart with the help of a female chaperone. The clothes, shoes, hygiene items and toys the 17 shoppers from Christel Perry’s class piled into shopping carts Tuesday will, once wrapped by the students, become Christmas presents for the six children in a family identified by a school social worker as deserving and in need.

“This is a family at our school, anonymous to these children,” Perry said as she directed the shopping of three girls in her team. They were shopping for two of the children. Four other teams, accompanied by adult chaperones, were each shopping for one child. They all knew sizes and needs and how much they had to spend – $100 per team.

“I did a math lesson on figuring sales tax, how to calculate that, and how to find a subtotal, calculate the amount of tax added to it and come up with the grand total,” Perry said. “They had to problem-solve to figure out how much they could spend so that when they added tax to it, it did not go over $100.”

The answer to that math problem is $93.68.

“The clearance rack is your best friend,” one of the students reminded her classmates.

“It’s kind of a competition,” their teacher said. “They’re seeing who can get within pennies of $100. Every dime is spent or given away” to the Salvation Army.

Donations from members of Perry’s church, Walnut Creek FWB, financed the shopping spree. With help from a Walmart-donated gift card and consideration from the Subway at Walmart, where the students ate lunch, every aspect of the outing, down to gasoline for the activity bus, was covered by donations.

If it sounds like Perry knows what she’s doing, she does. She’s organized this student activity for years. After taking a break from it for a while, Perry resumed the activity this year at the encouragement of friends at church – people anxious to experience the joy of giving at Christmas and to pass that particular gift on to a group of fifth graders.

A female teacher and female student look at a handheld calculator while shopping at Walmart.  “At the end of the project they will have to write what did they learn from this experience. Hopefully they will learn about giving to others,” Perry said. “We also talked about needs vs. wants. We’re providing for the needs first. Of course, we want to give them a toy or something to enjoy because this is Christmas.”

And this is what the class took away from their Christmas adventure, based on the written responses of a few of them to their teacher’s big what-did-you-learn question:

“I learned from this experience that giving is more than getting and that some people don’t have enough money to get what they want, or even need! Also, I learned that giving is fun and you could do it any time of the year, not only on holidays! I also learned how to calculate sales tax. I loved this trip and hope many more will love this trip too! – Asher Ortman.

“I learned that everything is not all about yourself. Some people may not have the money to buy stuff. You have to give these families something too, and this would probably make them happy to have presents for Christmas. I also learned about sales tax. It makes me happy knowing I’m helping other children.” – Nuvia Alejo.

“I learned how to use sales tax. I also learned that a lot of people don’t have the stuff or electronics that we have. The main thing that I learned was it’s nice and fun to give. I loved how we took the time to give people gifts.” – Rodzaer Mathis.

Photo captions (from top):

La Grange Elementary fifth graders, from left, Jacob Leaser, Jeffrey Diaz and Moises Perez-Raya shop with Lorree Lee, a teacher assistant at La Grange, for a family the class adopted for Christmas.

La Grange Elementary teacher Christel Perry and fifth-grade student Elizabeth Hinson consult the calculator while shopping at Walmart as part of a project designed to teach Perry’s class something about math and a lot about the joy of giving.