STMS students give a little to get a lot |

STMS students give a little to get a lot

Chad Sellmer, Tribune staff writer

There’s nothing like the satisfaction of working hard to earn your fun.

A South Tahoe Middle School seventh-grade class learned a valuable lesson about giving: lending an hour of hard work – cleaning up other people’s trash – in exchange for a day of skiing at Sierra-at-Tahoe. The weather played along nicely, and who knew community service was so much fun?

Originally planned as a ‘clean the slopes’ day, a blanket of fresh powder Thursday morning put a damper on the outdoor Sierra cleanup plans, but certainly not on the potential to have a lot of fun and still manage to do some work. The kids ended up cleaning inside the Aspen Cafe, learning the basics of work performed by generations of seasonal employees.

“It’s like a field trip and school at the same time,” said South Tahoe seventh-grader Michael Rivas. “The best part was that I got to do stuff I’ve never been able to do, like (ski run) Sugar ‘n Spice. I thought it was a death drop, but really it wasn’t. I think I learned you have to take chances.”

STMS team teacher Mary Palin explained the idea: perform a new type of community service each month. Some of the other activities included a bicycle relay around Lake Tahoe, picking up trash along beaches, a visit to the skilled nursing center at Barton Memorial Hospital and reading to kindergartners.

Along the way, kids learn valuable lessons about giving and some educational activities are always included, such as reading, writing, mathematics and creative art projects.

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“If their work isn’t 100 percent complete, then they don’t get to go on the field trips,” Palin said. “Obviously they are highly motivated, (even though) they know it’s not just a fun day away from school.”

In addition to learning the basics of restaurant cleanup, students also made books and were learning the art of crochet.

“There is so much interaction among the students,” said parent and chaperone, Larry Halverson. “Kids who may not necessarily talk at school are helping each other learn, especially with snowboarding.”

“We get to help people and make Tahoe a better place,” said STMS student Brittanie Cantway. “It’s like having fun but going to school at the same time.”

Community service activities coincide nicely with Sustainable Slopes Day coming up on Feb. 22. Sierra general manager John Rice said that despite the unplanned, indoor cleanup, the kids got a nice insight into the life of many Sierra employees.

“It was a good opportunity for them to feel they’re doing something in return,” Rice said. “It’s a win-win situation for the school and for us.”