LINCOLN, Maine — Thanks to first-graders at Ella P. Burr School, some servicemen stationed in Kuwait will receive in a few weeks 23 gift boxes of dry-goods food, personal hygiene items, candy, softballs — and squirt guns.
“They were thinking it was hot there,” first-grade teacher Sheila Woodman said, “so it would be great to have a squirt-gun fight.”
“You have to think like first-graders think,” Woodman said. “Then you’ll understand it.”
The packages were mailed on Tuesday.
The project grew out of efforts to comfort and help first-grade pupil Riley Varney cope with the absence of her father, a U.S. Army National Guard serviceman in Kuwait, Woodman said.
“It’s hard on her. She misses her dad. Yesterday she brought a Flat Daddy into school,” Woodman said of the life-size cardboard cutout featuring a photograph of Varney’s father.
The gift-box project “wasn’t totally in response to her situation,” Woodman added. “Some children knew of the troop greeters at the airport and how greeting the troops when they return is a friendly and nice thing to do even though they are complete strangers.”
The first-graders assembled the gift boxes, but the entire population at Ella Burr gathered the items within them, Woodman said. First-grade teacher Amanda Goslin said the project helped the first-graders understand many things.
“It teaches them about the world a little bit and that there are things outside of their town. It teaches them to be compassionate about other people and that not everyone is as fortunate as we are,” Goslin said. “In first grade, it is really hard for them to realize that they live in a town that is part of a state and in a country.”
“They just don’t understand that,” she added. “To them, it’s like, ‘Oh, there’s more than Maine? There’s more than Lincoln?’”
The project also complemented the first-graders’ field trip to the National Guard base in Bangor a few months ago, Goslin said.
“It was a worthwhile project that is going to really help people that can use more support from home. This will say we care about you and thanks for what you are doing,” she said.