Cobblestone kids make Planet Mo’ Betta

Sixth-grade students repair bikes, knit
By: Lauren Weber, Placer Herald Associate Editor
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Cobblestone Elementary sixth-graders are proving that you don’t have to be an adult to help people in need. Cindy Smith’s class has come together for the Nothing But Nets national campaign, raising money for the purchase of anti-malaria bed nets for children and families in Africa. Through two primary projects, the students have been raising funds – fixing up broken bikes and knitting hats and scarves to sell. For each $10 made, one net is purchased and distributed to countries such as Chad, Zimbabwe and Nigeria. The class came up with a name for their campaign: Planet Mo’ Betta – “students for a mo’ betta planet.” Smith said she’s a service learning advocate at Cobblestone and is “connecting their learning with real, meaningful service work” through the projects. Alek Dendall, a sixth-grader at Cobblestone, was asked by Smith to search through Web sites for service-learning project ideas. He came across Nothing But Nets and saw it as a fit for the class. “It was the only one where the students could get involved in this,” he said. Dendall has been helping with the bike repairs and as a group, they’ve recently finished painting one of their first bikes. “It’s fun and it’s cool to see something go from broken to completely clean,” he said. Before beginning this project, Dendall and many of his fellow students knew nothing about bike repairs. But with the help of an REI bike workshop that taught how to repair old tires and Smith’s daughter’s boyfriend – “a big bike guy,” Dendall said – they were able to take donated broken bikes and clean them up to ride like new. Their goal is to fix up 100 bikes, raising $1,000 for Nothing But Nets and to date, they’ve raised more than $400. Sixth-grader Taylor VanRoekel has been on the knitting end of the project. She said the idea came from one of her classmates who enjoyed knitting. A group of about 10 students have already knit more than 20 items including scarves and hats. “I thought it was really cool,” VanRoekel said. “And just giving $10 to one child, it saves a whole family.” Although the project began with Smith’s class, it has grown to include other sixth-graders, completely student-voiced and generated. “I’m just so proud of my class. They have an endless amount of ideas,” Smith said. At least 10 bikes have been donated so far and students have been busy cleaning and replacing tires, chains and seats. Once the bike is done with repairs, there’s one final test – a spin around the school to be sure the bike works correctly. Smith also envisions a spring bike rally with the entire school and possibly other Rocklin schools with a major bike ride. Until then, her students know they’re not only helping the community, but families across the world. “You get a lot of experience,” VanRoekel said “And it’s really fun to do it because you know you’re helping someone who really needs it.”