LEVITTOWN >> The Australian wildfires orphaned and displaced many animals last year, giving Beth Hartwick, a teacher at Harry S Truman High School, an idea for her students to give back and provide a cozy home for animals.
Her basic clothing students in tenth through twelfth grade, sewed joey pouches for a wildlife rescue in Australia, but then COVID-19 hit. When school resumed to a hybrid model months later, the need for joey pouches at the Australian rescue was not as great. Instead, Hartwick donated the pouches to a different need and one that is local to Bucks County: flying squirrels.
To stay warm in the winter, flying squirrels often take refuge in attics and garages, which can cause a lot of damage to property. Aark Wildlife Rehabilitation and Education Center, a nonprofit organization in Bucks County, takes in many flying squirrels in their clinic and releases them back into the wild in the spring.
Aark needed the joey pouches to provide a warm home for the squirrels while they spent the winter in their care. Hartwick said her students welcomed the project and made about 100 joey pouches on sewing machines. Since many students do not have sewing machines at home, students will hand sew them this year and utilize haute couture and quilting hand-sewing techniques.
Later this year, the basic clothing class will crochet and knit baby bird nests for Aark to help the many baby birds who fall out of their nests. These projects are some of the many Project Based Learning (PBL) assignments that Hartwick’s students will complete.
“Project Based Learning offers students a forum to design and create useful products, either for themselves or someone else,” said Hartwick. “Students really like to see the direct impact of their efforts and like learning skills that they can use further along in their education or life.”
Last year, students made “scent hearts,” which are heart-shaped scented pads used in the neonatal intensive care unit at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. Moms wear one and babies wear another to capture their scents. Then the scent hearts are switched to allow premature babies to smell the scent of their mothers when they are too small to be held. This aids in their development and attachment, says Hartwick.
Her students enjoy the service-learning projects so much, they often create more than what is asked of them to help even more people or animals.
Hartwick and her students are thankful for the donations they receive in the form of fabric and clothing to make these opportunities possible, as well as encouragement from the administrative team.
“I receive a lot of support from the administrative team at Truman High School and Bristol Township School District,” said Hartwick. “On more than one occasion, Superintendent Melanie Gehrens has provided a bus for my kids to deliver their projects to hospitals in Center City Philadelphia. We are very thankful for that opportunity.”
The organizations provide students with letters of recommendations and many thanks. The projects also count towards students’ volunteering and service-learning hours.