STEM students make treats, toys for area animal shelters
Every year, for the past four years, students at Innovations STEM Academy spend some time making treats and toys for local animal shelters as part of a community outreach project.
Eighth grader Christian Perez has been involved for the past three years. “It feels good to have the opportunity to help the community,” he said.
According to STEM instructor Teresa Lakowske, in order to fund the project, community members drop aluminum cans in a can cage, which is located in the school parking lot, all year long.
Every month, D&M Recycling out of Onalaska collects the cans and writes a check to STEM Academy and the EDGE program, who split the money 50/50. In total, the two groups raise roughly $300 throughout the year.
EDGE uses its share of the funds to make quilts, which it donates to the ambulance service and kids staying in the hospital. STEM uses its share of the funds to purchase supplies to make dog treats.
“It’s really great that people are using our location as a drop off for their aluminum,” Lakowske said. “By them bringing their cans here, we can keep buying these supplies and EDGE can keep making quilts.”
Sixth grader Milo Everson-Riley said the dog treats were made from oats, flour, peanut butter and water. The group then used six ovens to bake the treats.
“It made me feel good because we got to give it to cats and dogs and we got to make it ourselves and not just buy them and then donate them,” Everson-Riley said.
The kids baked nearly 300 dog treats that were donated to Chasing Daylight Animal Shelter in Tomah.
“They look forward to us bringing it every year,” Lakowske said. “This year we had more than in years past.”
Along with the dog treats, students made chew toys for both cats and dogs out of used, cotton t-shirts that staff and students collected.
The kids cut up the t-shirts into strips, which varied in size, and braided the strips into a rope. They made different sized toys for different sized pets.
Sixth grader Morgan Revels said the dog toys were made bigger and stronger. The kids made three braids and then braided those together.
“I enjoyed it. I like the fact that we get to give it to dogs and cats,” Revels said, adding she has pets of her own at home. “I think it’s a good craft that I can do at home for my own pets.”
Even though, they’ve done this particular project for the past several years, they wanted to try something new this year. They decided to make cat toys with cat nip, which were donated to AS/AP Cat Shelter in Sparta.
“It’s always good to try something new and keep it fresh. We’re just a small school of 60 kids helping a community,” Perez said. “Maybe next year the STEM kids can promote the project around Sparta to collect t-shirts and then can make as much as possible to help the community.”
Lakowske said the project helps prepare the students for high school when they are required to complete community service hours and it inspires them to think of other people and animals as well.