Michigan Week is a common time to hear “Carmen Ohio” or “Hang on Sloopy” being played on campus, but everyone in the Ohio Union lobby Tuesday afternoon was treated to particularly special renditions of these Buckeye traditionals: they were performed on recorders, conga drums, and one bundt cake pan. By fourth-graders.
The performance was part of what Barrington Elementary School, in nearby Upper Arlington, calls Buckeye Bonanza, a 20-year school tradition where two classes of fourth-graders join together to create, market and sell Buckeye-themed merchandise with this year’s proceeds going to the Stefanie Spielman Fund for Breast Cancer Research and the James Cancer Hospital.
This year, between sales at Ohio State Tuesday and a sale during lunch at the school Monday, $1,107 was raised.
In addition to raising money for a cause and exposing the children to the Michigan Week campus atmosphere, the experience provides substantial educational experience, said Katie Benton, a fourth-grade teacher who has been planning and helping facilitate the event for 16 years.
“The kids get the option of bringing in prototype ideas,” Benton said. “They will see something, bring it in, and we’ll decide if we can make it, and then we basically tie it into our curriculum for economics of how much will it cost to make, and how many do you think we need to make and what are we going to charge for them and the factors of production that go into that with supply and demand and scarcity.”
The lessons are well-received by the students.
“I’ve learned how to make my own products and come up with ideas and to know the materials I need to have,” said Cooper McGinty, one of Benton’s students.
The 49 Barrington students followed their 11:30 a.m. musical performance by breaking up into eight groups, most roaming around campus hotspots such as The Oval, and one group staying at a table in the Union.
The students — a couple of whom were dressed in giant buckeye-nut costumes — carried items they collectively made themselves, many of which used the buckeye nut.
Students came to campus with necklaces, turkey figurines, small artificial evergreen trees adorned with buckeyes and canvases painted with Ohio-themed art. The items were sold for between $2 and $10.
The enterprising spirit of the students and their lack of shyness around much older strangers was impressive, said Kari Warkentin, the teacher of the other fourth-grade class, and co-planner of the project.
“I think I’ve learned that some of [my students] are going to be really good sales people,” she said.
Prior to setting up shop in the Ohio Union, the students were given a guided tour of Ohio Stadium, the favorite part of the day for student Sophie Bergmann.
“I liked pretending like I was making touchdowns so I kept on running back and forth on the field,” Bergmann said. “I also really enjoyed when we got into the area where special guests … and the president go and we actually got to sit there and be like, ‘this is awesome.’”
The stadium also has a connection to the students’ elementary school.
“I thought it was really cool that the same architect [Howard Dwight Smith] built Barrington that built the stadium,” Abby Davis, one of Warkentin’s students said, in response to a historical reading about Ohio Stadium she and her classmates were assigned prior to the event.
Buckeye Bonanza — originally called the Buckeye Project — had humble origins when it began in 1997, but has grown in scale and scope as the variety of items offered for sale expanded and activities such as the recorder performance and stadium tour were added, Benton said.
“A little boy came in to his teacher and just brought a bunch of buckeyes one day and he basically just said ‘Hey, what can we do with these?’” Benton said.
That teacher, the now-retired Bonnie Emory, collaborated with a parent who worked at the university to arrange for students to sell buckeye necklaces on The Oval. A few hundred dollars were raised the first year.
The musical performance was added more than 10 years ago and was driven by the desire of the students to play the songs, said Debbie Gibson, a music teacher for the Upper Arlington City School District.
“It came from the children,” she said. “Once upon a time they said ‘Can we play “Hang on Sloopy” on our recorders, because we’re playing “Hot Cross Buns?”
Gibson said she originally did not think the song choice was plausible, but then realized if the students could learn musical patterns of one song, then they also could for another.
That process repeated itself with “Carmen Ohio” a few years later, Gibson said, adding the idea to bring a chiming metal bundt cake pan into the mix came to her a few years after that.
“All summer with my husband — who’s also a music teacher — we scoured Goodwill stores looking for the right-sounding cake pan,” she said.
Buckeye Bonanza is the second event Barrington fourth-graders have taken part in recently. It follows on the heels of the “Beat Michigan, Beat Cancer” five-kilometer run on Nov. 4 that raised over $20,000 for the James Cancer Hospital, for ovarian cancer research.
November’s “Beat Michigan, Beat Cancer” run came at the insistence of a group of former Barrington students — now high-school seniors — who had created the run in 2009 when they were in fourth grade as a one-time event after two students lost family members to ovarian cancer, Benton said. As seniors, they wanted to bring the run back for their high-school capstone.
Combined with “Buckeye Bonanza,” the students have been working on charity projects for nearly five weeks, said Benton. That is something both students and parents said they are happy about.
“I think it’s great that [the students] learn a lot about giving back,” said Stephanie Buehler, the mother of Barrington fourth-grader Milo Buehler.
When asked about her favorite part of the two events, Evie Leader, a student in Warkentin’s class, didn’t hesitate at all before responding: “Knowing you’re helping people is really cool.”
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