When Shonda Smith’s 14 fourth-graders wanted to give back this holiday season, the Ellen Smith Elementary teacher took it as an opportunity to help them make an impact while utilizing challenge-based research.

The students knew they wanted to help other children, and a few students suggested finding an orphanage to help out. Smith turned the idea into a learning opportunity and asked the students to do some research to make their idea a reality.

During recess that day, students Gracie Fason and Kennedy Cloe went online and found the Open Arms Shelter in Lonoke. They wrote out the information to get in touch with the shelter, and Smith made contact to set up a way her class could help out.

The Open Arms Shelter provides both temporary and long-term housing for children up to age 18 who have been victims of abuse and neglect.

Over the next week, the students brought in snacks, drinks and gingerbread houses to provide one snack for each child at the shelter for five days around Christmas.

One week before Christmas, Smith’s students were packing gift bags of cookies, Capri Suns and notes of "Merry Christmas!" for the children at the shelter. They were also wrapping gingerbread house kits to add something special for each child.

"I hope they feel excited, especially for the gingerbread houses," said Gracie Fason.

Kennedy Cloe echoed that hope.

"I hope they feel thankful," she said. "I hope they feel proud."

Smith delivered the gifts to the shelter Dec. 19, in time for the gifts to be distributed during the week of Christmas.

(Staff writer Angela Spencer can be reached by email at angela.spencer@thecabin.net or by phone at 505-1212. To comment on this and other stories in the Log Cabin, log on to www.thecabin.net. Send us your news at www.thecabin.net/submit)