Aurora -- Students at Harmon Middle School came up with a unique way to collect non-perishable food donations for the needy.

After raising nearly $700, about 125 students in five of teacher Shawn Reilly's seventh-grade classes purchased and used cans and packages of food to make five creations -- a Minion character from the movie "Despicable Me," an iPhone, a pair of pants, a Starbucks coffee cup and a cupcake. Students bought the food with the donated money.

The food items were donated to Aurora's Volunteers of America, which picked up the food Jan. 17. The five food creations sat on the stage in the school lunch room during the week prior to pickup.

Reilly, who teaches workshop and exploring technology, said the project taught students different aspects of problem-based learning.

"We gave them a situation that was real," he said. "This was the perfect idea for that. It's more meaningful when it's real. Our goal was to help feed people. That was the job of one group of students. It's great that we collected all this food, but who do we give it to?"

To make their creations, students used more than 1,300 containers of food including cans of corn, green beans, tomatoes, tuna and soup plus packages of macaroni and cheese.

The iPhone was made out of stacks of white cans of corn and green beans. "The pants project started out as a joke," Reilly said. "But the students liked it, and they went with it."

Students also had to design and create the projects.

TO RAISE money to purchase the food, the five groups of students raffled a candy basket (Minion group), sold tickets and concessions for a movie night in which "Elf" starring Will Ferrell was shown in the band room (iPhone group), raffled Lake Erie Monsters hockey tickets (pants group), conducted a bake sale (coffee cup group) and sold and delivered candy canes (cupcake group).

After raising the money, students had to make a script and call businesses to seek donations.

Students whose group constructed the iPhone talked about the project.

Sophia Roberto said the project involved a lot of planning. "We learned how to do things step by step to make it work out," she said.

Karson Taylor said, "The projects were voted on by everyone in the group, so we picked something that was popular."

"We enjoyed designing [the iPhone]," Sydney Verel said. "There was a lot of debating about what it would look like."

"We wanted to make a white iPhone," Joe Esposito said. "So white cans of corn and green beans worked well."

"It felt good to be able to help out the community," Jonny Franco said

About 750 students in the school voted Jan. 15 on the five creations, and the winner was the Starbucks' coffee cup.

"The ultimate goal was to feed people," Reilly said. "That was the mantra throughout the whole project. After each class, I would ask, 'What is our goal?' and they would shout back, 'Feed people!'"

Reilly praised the students' ingenuity. "Everybody had a job, and they all did it well," he said. "All I did was grade them."


Phone: 330-541-9400 ext. 4187


Twitter: Mike Lesko@MikeLesko_RPC