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Students put their hearts into creating school’s Valentine Village

by June Portnoy

Fourth graders at Penn Valley Elementary School in Levittown hosted their annual Valentine Village on February 9th. The village consisted of “stores” created and manned by fourth graders who displayed and sold products they believed would attract “customers” to purchase.

Their customers included second, third and fifth graders who browsed by each store before deciding which item they wanted to buy for a quarter. Fourth graders ultimately raised $225.75 that they donated to the American Heart Association in honor of Valentine’s Day.

Students were encouraged to be creative and use props to design their store and package their products. Fourth grade storeowners were helped by their first grade reading buddies who tallied the number of customers who patronized their stores.

However, the purpose of the Valentine Village was not to collect the most amount of money; its objective was to create a hands-on learning experience that incorporated many aspects of their school curriculum.

Fourth grade teacher Jennifer Klacik established this annual event four years ago.

“I wanted to do something that would require more thought than the traditional Valentine’s Day card exchange,” she said.

Students were asked to write a persuasive essay convincing a potential customer to either buy their product or shop at their store. Since a big component of math in fourth grade involves incorporating words into math to explain their thinking, students were required to develop a multi-step number story related to the product they chose to sell at the Valentine Village.

This helped them apply math to a real-life situation. Students were graded on their persuasive essays and number stories.

According to Ms. Klacik, in the past, students used play money to purchase products. This was the first year they used real money, adding to the authenticity of the students’ stores.

“We only charged a quarter so everyone could afford to shop,” said Ms. Klacik. “Our students have good hearts, always wanting to help out in some way, which is why we decided the money they collected would be donated to the American Heart Association.”

The project also taught students presentation and communication skills.

“We talked about what customers look for when they walk into a store,” said Ms. Klacik. “We also discussed how people are attracted to friendly faces and to owners who thank them for coming to their store.

Each student created a sign that included the name of their store and the price of the item they sold. They were encouraged to use alliteration in their signs since they were learning figurative language in their classes.

Therefore, many students incorporated their first or last name into their store name, such as “Johnson’s Jewelry.” However, their overall goal was to create signs that attracted customers.

Owen Gancarz, who ran a gumball store, did a particularly good job capturing customers’ attention. On his table was the actual size of the world’s record of the biggest bubblegum ever blown. That picture hooked his audience, and as a result, he ended up selling out of gumballs.

When selecting a product to sell, students were asked to think about what their target customers would want to buy. According to Ms. Klacik, fourth-grader Kaydence Gress developed one of the most unique ideas this year by selling dog treats at her store.

She knew that most of the other students were selling products like books, tasty treats or jewelry that students would buy for themselves, but Kaydence also realized that many of the students had pets. She knew that if nobody else sold pet items, she would have no competition, guaranteeing that she sold many of her products, which is exactly what ended up transpiring.

Each student was responsible for setting up and taking down his/her store.

Up until this year, the Valentine Village was held in classrooms where only third graders were invited to shop.

“This event has grown and evolved over the years and become so elaborate that we needed more room to display our fourth graders’ stores,” explained Ms. Klacik.

Therefore, this year the Village was moved to the school gym and opened up to all grades.

“The Valentine Village builds a great sense of community among our students,” said Principal Barbara Hidalgo. “It’s a great celebration of all the hard work these fourth graders have invested into their stores, leading to this end result.”

PHOTO CAPS: 1. From left, Cole Smith, Madyson Rudloff, Hailey Rakowski, and Lucas Reim at their candy store.

  1. From left, Ariam Ressom, Emma Pretcher, Maddie Weatherholt, and Anthony Zabielski sold some sweet treats.