Normandale students raise money while learning

Learning about counting and exchanging money became a real-life lesson for Normandale French Immersion students.

Normandale third graders Ellie Karthaus and Will Anderson count out cash with the help of Edina High School senior Natalie Gaughan during the elementary school’s garage sale to raise funds for La Petite Académie in Haiti on Friday, Feb. 15. (Sun staff photo by Lisa Kaczke)
Normandale third graders Ellie Karthaus and Will Anderson count out cash with the help of Edina High School senior Natalie Gaughan during the elementary school’s garage sale to raise funds for La Petite Académie in Haiti on Friday, Feb. 15. (Sun staff photo by Lisa Kaczke)


A “vide-grenier” (garage sale) held by third graders last school year expanded into a school-wide service learning endeavor on Friday, Feb. 15.

Third grade teacher Sophie Toner began the garage sale with her students as a way to raise funds to help the La Petite Académie in Lougou, Haiti.

Toner first heard of the school from Normandale paraprofessional Cassie Avignon. Avignon is from Haiti and her parents live in Lougou, where they run the school. The school opened six years ago and they start a new grade every year.

Toner was looking for a service learning experience for her students, but it is difficult to find projects in French locally. Service learning is a teaching strategy in Edina for teachers to reach educational goals for their students, the district’s Service-Learning Coordinator Julie Rogers Bascom explained.

By having a garage sale where students buy and sell donated toys and books, they’re using math skills, knowledge about Haiti, collaboration skills and practicing their French in a real-world situation, while raising money to purchase items to donate to the school, Rogers Bascom said.

Toner said she wouldn’t have done a project that was only raising money for La Petite Académie because the only lesson students would have learned is to ask their parents for money. Rogers Bascom pointed out that by incorporating it into the curriculum, it makes students aware rather than having them collect items or money without meaning behind it.

During last year’s first garage sale, Toner said she was hoping they would make a few hundred dollars and the result – more than $1,300 – was “mind blowing.” By not setting a fund raising goal, students are focusing on the educational lessons of the experience rather than a dollar amount, Rogers Bascom said.

With the expansion of garage sale participation to the entire school this year, all students have been given tasks.

Fourth- and fifth-grade students did the promotion for the event, including announcements and fliers. The fifth graders also did a presentations in each class, tailoring the information and visuals to the different grade levels, Toner said.

Third graders studied what it means to give change when purchasing an item. She also spent time preparing the students to count out change without using a calculator. They learned how to give change based on their math curriculum, which puts it into context, she said.

“They understand, ‘This is why I’m learning this,’” she said. “It’s been amazing.”

The students also worked on French expressions used in a store, such as welcoming a customer, how much an item is and helping a customer find something, she said. She had her third graders write skits about a customer and a cashier and act them out using props in the classroom.

“I’ve never heard so much French talked in the class,” she said.

Edina High School students who completed elementary school at Normandale also came back to the elementary school to work in shifts at the garage school, ensuring the students speak in French and to help with the money exchanges.

EHS senior Rachel Thompson said it was fun for the elementary students to have the high school students around and to see students who have gone all the way through Edina’s French program. Senior Natalie Gaughan said she would have liked to have a similar event to practice French when she was at Normandale.

After the garage sale, the money will be given to the kindergarten to sort and first-graders will count it. The amount raised was determined after Sun Current went to press and will be reported in an upcoming issue.

The garage sale reflects the district’s mission of All For All because no matter where students are in the spectrum of test scores, all of them can participate in the sale. One of Toner’s students was struggling with the math concepts they were using and was anxious about the garage sale. But after working at the garage sale for a bit, she was loving it, Toner said.

“Kids are excited because it’s the real thing,” she said.

Once the amount is known, the third graders will decide what items to purchase for La Petite Académie. The school lists online what is needed and the costs, which creates a partnership rather than Normandale students deciding for La Petite Académie what it needs, Rogers Bascom said. In service learning, it’s important that it’s the voice of the students rather than parents and teachers making the decision.

Nearly everything sold in last year’s garage sale. They had more donations for this year’s garage sale. What wasn’t sold was donated to Goodwill locally, which students voted on. It shows students there’s need locally and in other countries, Rogers Bascom said.

Toner hopes this is the beginning of a deeper connection between Edina’s French students and La Petite Académie.

After making the connection with the first garage sale last year, Toner wanted to start the relationship with La Petite Académie earlier in the school year than February.

In a cultural traditions reciprocity, Toner’s students sent a book of photos of them in their Halloween costumes and comments from the students. La Petite Académie students will be doing the same this month for Mardi Gras.

She said her dream is to eventually travel to Haiti to visit La Petite Académie with a group of Edina students. Rogers Bascom noted that the partnership illuminates the school district’s mission of graduating students who are ready for a global society.

It’s especially true at Normandale, Toner said, where she wants service learning to be about the world outside of the United States.


Contact Lisa Kaczke at [email protected]