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Learning to help the less fortunate starts early at Black Mountain Primary School. For a month-long community service project, 8- and 9-year-old third graders collected items they thought the homeless needed.

“Their project was based on the book ‘Seven Habits for Happy Kids’ by Sean Covey,” third-grade teacher Nora Nelson said. “They learned to be proactive, which means to be a responsible person and not blame others for wrong actions. They also learned it’s important to do the right thing without being asked.”

Mable James, a third-grade student, remembered that Habit 2, as mentioned in the book, was to begin something with its end in mind.

“You have to plan ahead and set goals,” she said. “You need to do things that have meaning and things that will make a difference, like our project to help the homeless.”

Nelson said learning to make a habit out of putting first things first took a little practice.

“The students learned to set priorities, make a schedule and then follow a plan. And they did a good job,” she said.

“You have to feed your mind, body, heart or soul,” Mable said. “You have to take care of yourself.”

Nelson said learning to think with a win-win attitude was important in the project, as was Habit 5, which was to seek first to understand and then to be understood. The students learned to listen more effectively to others without interrupting. They also worked on developing confidence.

They learned about “synergizing,” which is valuing other people’s strengths and learning from them. The final habit was “Sharpen the Saw.” This one became the motto of the third grade. “Sharpening the Saw” means taking care of the body by eating right, exercising and getting enough sleep.

“We collected things like umbrellas and things to protect a person from getting wet,” Mable said. “We got hats and ponchos. We also asked Mrs. (Malorie) McGinnis, our principal, permission to do this project. She almost cried.”

Nelson said McGinnis was moved almost to tears at the thoughtfulness of the third graders participating in the community project.

The students made posters, gave speeches, developed a plan and created a draft of a letter that was sent home to parents, explaining the project. The parents helped the students collect what they needed to give to the homeless.

When all the items were collected, the students took them to Swannanoa Valley Christian Ministry to be distributed.

“It felt really good when we donated all the stuff to the ministry,” third-grade student Jack Wesley Burk said. “It makes you feel good to do something for someone else.”

Leigh Hutchins, a third-grade teacher at Black Mountain Primary and sponsor of Girls on the Run, said the girls adopted three children to sponsor for Christmas through the Salvation Army in Asheville as their community project.

The girls raised money to buy gifts for the children through two bake sales at school for the faculty and staff members.

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