Kindergarten students at Bridges Elementary in Prairie du Sac are learning what it means to give back during the holidays.

Students are participating in a service learning project where they do chores around their house to earn money. The money they earn is put toward purchasing presents for kids staying at the Baraboo-based Hope House — a place where women and children can seek shelter. Hope House draws from Sauk, Columbia, Juneau, Marquette and Adams counties.

Once the kids earn their money, it is brought into the classroom for the students to sort as part of learning math. Teachers then purchase gifts — which include clothing and toys — they bring into the classroom for the kids to gift wrap.

“We’ve been doing this in some form for the past 10 years,” Bridges kindergarten teacher Nyree Larson said. “We talk about the concept of giving and sharing — needs and wants.”

Bridges kindergarten teacher Sarah Brings said the class also talks about what it feels like to be able to give and how the kids are helping.

“We had to find a safe way to talk about Hope House,” Brings said. “We tell them it’s a way to help families who had to leave their home and their things behind.”

Brings said a parent recently made a “generous donation” to the project. “We learned the parent stayed at Hope House as a child,” Brings said. “This project just really touched their heart.”

While students primarily do chores to earn money for the project, some families also provide donations. Wrapping paper is collected throughout the year to wrap the gifts.

Katie Schoepp, whose son Matthew is participating in the project this year, said it’s a great way to get the kids involved in the community.

“When they have that incentive of earning money for the project, it helps get them excited about doing a little more around the house,” Schoepp said. She has two other children who have participated in the project over the years. Matthew helped load and unload the dishwasher as well as fold towels to earn money for the gifts.

“With the exception of actually getting to see the kids at Hope House open their presents, this is really fun to watch,” Schoepp said of seeing the students wrap presents.

Bridges student Tegan Ripp said she likes seeing all the colors of the wrapping paper and seeing the gifts the kids are going to get, “especially the dolls.”

“I kind of like it because I like to wrap presents,” said Tucker Adler, a kindergarten student at Bridges. “I like that we get to surprise the kids when they see their presents. And that we can wrap the presents so the kids can open them and smile.”

Larson said the project has been a way to give back and make a difference in the local community.

“It teaches the kids we have a lot to give so it’s good to share with others,” she said. “And it feels good to give.”

Follow Autumn Luedke on Twitter @Apwriter1 or contact at (608) 393-5777

Reporter, Sauk Prairie Eagle