LeCLAIRE — Anyone who happened to visit Bridgeview Elementary School on Wednesday found it a lot darker and a little quieter than usual, but it wasn’t a schoolwide nap time.
The LeClaire school is engaged in a weeklong series of activities to raise money to help victims of Superstorm Sandy. On Wednesday, the students and staff learned what it is like to go through the day without electricity.
The idea for Wednesday’s Black Out came from some of the students, Principal Tony Hiatt said.
Hiatt said the school has monthly family meetings, and the subject of November’s meeting was citizenship. As part of a lesson to learn about being good citizens in their community and their country, the students were allowed to plan a week’s worth of activities to raise money for the American Red Cross, with the money going to aid victims of the storm that devastated the East Coast in October.
The students planned special days such as Gum Day, where everyone was allowed to chew gum, and a day where everyone wore red, charging a $1 suggested donation per student to participate.
Hiatt said Wednesday’s Black Out, during which students also were encouraged to dress in black clothing, was different because it was intended to put the students in the shoes of some of the people affected by the massive storm.
“It was interesting to see that it has a little deeper meaning than just a fun day,” Hiatt said.
In many of the classrooms, students went about most of their normal routine with just the sunlight coming in from the windows. Hiatt said it must have been a sign of good karma that Wednesday was a bright, sunny day.
Students in the library could be seen reading by flashlight.
While enough lights were left on to make sure the students could make their way through the school safely, and the heat was kept on, some adjustments had to be made.
Hiatt said the smartboards and computers that have become part of the daily life of schoolchildren were not in use Wednesday.
“We’re old-school learning today,” he said.
Carol Hamann, who teaches fourth grade, said the students were adapting well and helping each other out.
“They’ve had to use their listening skills more than their visual skills,” she said.
One of the students who helped come up with the idea for the Black Out was third-grader Makena Richards. She said she has cousins who live in Boston who weren’t able to go to school for a while after Sandy struck.
While working in the dark made it a little hard to see, Makena thought it had been a good lesson.
“It’s actually kind of cool because we get to know how they feel,” she said.
Second-grader Tommy Jeffries said he didn’t miss the electricity during his school day.
Sixth-grader Juliana Valle-Riestra said the Black Out provided students with an interesting perspective.
“It’s important to learn what they’ve been going through so we can understand it,” she said.
In addition to the theme days throughout the week, students also could buy raffle tickets for a chance to win lunch at the LeClaire Happy Joe’s restaurant with Hiatt and counselor Lisa Albrecht. Happy Joe’s donated one lunch per grade.
The school’s goal was to raise $1,000 during the week, and students already had surpassed that goal by Wednesday.
“We’ve had great response from the kids and the families,” Hiatt said.
Kasey Kelly, a spokeswoman for the American Red Cross of the Quad-Cities Area, said many local schools, organizations, businesses and individuals have had fundraisers or donated money to assist victims of Superstorm Sandy.
“We have had a phenomenal response from the Quad-Cities,” she said.