It’s amazing what you can learn from kids. Especially from the students at McKinley Elementary School in Santa Barbara — and Joan Swanson’s fifth-grade class specifically.

The class kicked off the school year with a commitment to give back to the community via Learning to Give — a new philanthropic curriculum being introduced to local schools. The students were immediately inspired and pledged their Halloween candy — not an easy give for a fifth-grader — to Transition House.

Swanson’s students encouraged the entire McKinley campus to give their sweets, which yielded more than 6,000 pieces, equaling 86 pounds!

“Thanks to everyone who helped with this project. The Transition House kids really appreciate that members of the community are thinking about them, especially during the holidays, which can be particularly difficult for homeless children,” said Kathleen Babushka, executive director of Transition House. “We appreciate the McKinley fifth-graders!”

Students are already far along on their Holiday Drive in raising funds for the Teddy Bear Cancer Foundation, with most of their $200 goal already raised.

Also under way is a food drive to benefit The Unity Shoppe, which includes a field trip to help stock the shelves. Students filmed a video that is being shown across campus to encourage all students to participate in the drive.

A special philanthropy display in the classroom keeps the focus on Learning to Give

A classroom display keeps the focus on Learning to Give. (McKinley Elementary School courtesy photo)

In recognition of the students’ ingenuity, Santa Barbara Bank & Trust representatives recently visited Swanson’s class and presented each of the 20 students with a goody bag full of fun items, including a gift certificate compliments of Taffy’s Pizza.

“We have one more surprise for you that should help you ‘pay it forward,” Randy Weiss, the bank’s community relations officer, said as he gave each student a Santa Barbara Bank & Trust piggy bank with a $2 bill already deposited.

With the next assignments, the young community leaders were all smiles on their way to lunch and sharing ideas about more good deeds. In doing so, they can teach a thing or two to all of us along the way.

For more information about the Learning to Give curriculum, call Tina Fanucchi at 805.682.2032.

— Tina Finucchi is a Learning to Give coordinator. Joan Swanson is a fifth-grade teacher at McKinley Elementary School.