What does a ton look like?
To some, it looks like a Volkswagen Beetle. To others, it looks like a baby elephant.
But to students at Trinity Day School, a ton is a math lesson that ended in a donation of more than 2,000 pounds of food to the HOPE program.
The school hauled more than one ton of nonperishable foods Wednesday from Trinity to the food bank at Enota Elementary School. The weighty donation to Homeless Outreach Program and Evaluation all started from a second-grade math lesson.
When Mindy Ellis started teaching her second-grade class about weights and measurements this fall, she wanted them to be able to see what they were learning.
"One ton equals 2,000 pounds ... how can a kid visualize how much that is?" Ellis said.
Trinity usually does a community service project every year, and Ellis thought the math lesson would serve well as the schoolwide service project.
"We tried to incorporate that idea with the food drive and see if we couldn’t gather a ton of food," Ellis said.
Once Trinity decided to take on the feat, Ellis said she was unsure of the 113-student school’s ability to meet the one ton goal.
"I saw articles about other groups trying to do it, and they only got a half a ton of food," Ellis said. "And I’m thinking ‘uh-oh.’"
But Trinity’s students, teachers and parents collected more than 2,000 pounds of nonperishable foods in less than a month.
Students from the school’s kindergarten to fifth-grade classes brought bottles of apple juice, bags of rice and crates full of cans of soup, vegetables and tuna for nearly a month.
"We knew that a ton of food would be extremely difficult for one or two classes to do, but we thought it was something we could do here at the school," said Terri Roush, assistant administrator for Trinity Day School. "All the kids have jumped on board and have just been crazy about bringing in stuff."
Students monitored their progress on a picture of a baby elephant that teachers had drawn and colored in as the students collected more food.
"With the elephant that we put together... they quickly saw their efforts ... and they could visualize how much of it we had gained," Ellis said.
On Monday, Trinity had garnered 1,100 pounds of food, Ellis said. But by Wednesday afternoon, the school had exceeded its goal.
"The kids have watched it grow and grow and grow, and our little elephant is all colored in now," Roush said.
Trinity initially contacted the North Georgia Community Foundation for the donation, but the foundation has not yet built its food bank.
Kay Blackstock, administrative assistant for the North Georgia Community Foundation, still wanted to help. Blackstock contacted the director of the HOPE program, who said she would love to have the food to help feed the 100 families currently enrolled in the program.
The HOPE program is a joint effort between the Gainesville city school system and the Hall County school system to assist the homeless in the community.
Blackstock said Wednesday’s donation was amazing, because it taught kids more than weights and measurements.
"They got keyed in with their families on the concept of hunger ... in your community, and giving and sharing and philanthropy," Blackstock said. "It’s a real cool concept to get kids involved early, because if they get that concept of philanthropy when they’re young like that, that’s something they’ll build into their lives forever more."
And it seems the kids have learned their lessons.
"It feels good to give food to people that don’t have food for Christmas," said 10-year-old Christian Hunt. "It’s sort of fun, too just to walk in the lobby and say ‘hey, there’s a ton of food.’"
Hunt said he and his mother donated 200 pounds to the cause.