BURGETTSTOWN - Burgettstown Area Elementary Center pupils "giddied-up" for an adventure during the school's annual end-of-year Heartwood carnival May 29 at the First Niagara Pavilion.
This year's theme was "Giddy-Up for a Heartwood Adventure."
"The kids work for this all year," said volunteer Sarah Mitchell, whose children attend the school. "If the teachers or another kid sees them doing something good, they get Heartwood tickets. They really work for it. I chaperone every year -- it's crazy, but I love it. I've been a volunteer for a long time, and I wouldn't want to miss it. It's a great time and to see the kids smile makes it worth it."
Joe Scruppi and Michael Belisle compete in a team cup-stacking game at the end-of-year Heartwood carnival, a character education program award. -- Summer Wallace-Minger
The carnival ties into the school's Heartwood character education program, and, throughout the year, the teachers introduced a series of positive character by reading and discussing stories focusing on individual character traits, which include respect, courage, justice, hope, love, loyalty and honesty. Each grade level has its own set of Heartwood books.
In addition, teachers created additional activities in their classrooms and in their grade level wings to reinforce the attributes. As part of encouraging good character, the school sponsored community service projects.
Pupils earned tickets, which could be redeemed for carnival coins, by exhibiting positive behavior and exemplifying the character traits, in a positive reinforcement program. The tickets were distributed by teachers, secretaries, aides, administrators and support staff. Tickets could then be redeemed for gold Heartwood coins at monthly ticket redemptions.
Principal Melissa Mankey credited the Heartwood Committee for their work on both the school-year program and the end-of-year carnival.
"They spent countless hours of extra work," said Mankey.
She also thanked First Niagara, the businesses who made donations toward the event, the parents who participated in the program and helped with fundraisers and the volunteers who manned the event.
"Because of all of them, our kids have this wonderful day," she said.
Character education is an important part of education, especially teaching children to respect themselves, their classmates and teachers and others' possessions.
"When our kids go out on a field trip, our children are always complimented for their behavior by adults," she said.
During the carnival, students and staff wore Heartwood T-shirts. The shirt was designed in a school-wide contest, which drew elements from designs submitted by Emily Lemmon, Gianna Muscaro and Courtney Mitchem.
E.L.F. Entertainment provided several inflatables, including an obstacle course, velcro wall and fun house.
"I volunteer because it's something that's just for the kids and to see the smiles on their faces," said volunteer Norma Alrutz, who also is a school board member.
Teachers Bob Hughes and Brianne Sieg created an Intermediate Challenge Center, based off the show "Minute to Win It," with educational games for third- through fifth-grade pupils, and Heather Shaffer and Patty Ginosky created a Primary Challenge Center for pupils in kindergarten through second grades. Teachers will be operating both centers.
Ginosky said the program began nearly 20 years ago, it is well-received by the children and the pupils always are on the look-out to both model good behavior and to spot others behaving well.
"It's great for the teachers and it's great for the kids," she said, noting the program is effective in improving classroom behavior.
Hughes noted there is a marked change seen in classroom behavior from the when the program is introduced in November.
"For us (teachers), it helps, because it limits (poor) behaviors," he said. "The kids like it because they are recognized (for good behaviors) and rewarded."
Brenda Inches of Scrapbooking by Inches operated a craft-making booth.
Mankey noted a scavenger hunt was added last year, and it was so successful that it once again was part of the festivities this year, only altered to reflect the western theme, such as singing a country-western song for certain teachers, collecting cacti from others and using a lasso in the intermediate area.
"The kids are having a great time," she said "It's the perfect weather."
More than 6,000 games prizes were either purchased or donated and each child left the carnival with a prize, according to school officials.
More than 300 volunteers, including parents, teachers and HOPE Club members, participated. The Ambulance and Chair Service of Northwest were available.
Local businesses and service organizations who made donations toward the event were First Niagara Pavilion, Rosen Designs, Scrapbooking by Inches and the Burgettstown Kids Center, Petrucci's IGA and McDonald's.
The Heartwood committee includes BAEC staffers Cathy Williamson, Shaffer, Ginosky, Sieg, Hughes, Chris Foster, P.J. Rutledge, Co-chair Amanda Suica, Co-chair Julie Marshall, Chair Michelle Read, Mankey and District Superintendent David Palmer.
The carnival is funded through magazine sales and donations from local businesses.