Sunflower Elementary artist-entrepreneurs raise $2K for animal sanctuary with jewelry sale

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As students across Lawrence wrapped up their final projects of the school year, first graders in Jessica Brown’s class at Sunflower Elementary put a bow on their service learning project to benefit rescued animals.

On May 23, Brown’s class presented a “big check” for $2,000 to Shy 38, the nonprofit farm sanctuary north of Lawrence founded in 2015 by Kris Taylor.

Brown’s 26 students signed the check and celebrated surpassing their original fundraising goal of $1,150. For the second year in a row, Brown’s class partnered with artist Laura Roberson, owner of Muse Clay Designs, during the project for the Advancement Via Individual Determination (AVID) college- and career-readiness curriculum.

Contributed photo Kris Taylor, center, accepts a donation from first graders at Sunflower Elementary on May 23, 2023.

Roberson said the youngsters launched the project with a simple question: “How can we, as first graders, create a product to be marketed and sold to families across our community that would allow for money to be raised for a local organization?”

The success from last year’s jewelry fundraiser and its “incredible impact in our community” paved the way for the second year of the project, Roberson said.

“They have designed their ads, spoken to the school board, set a goal, researched, designed, and anticipated their impact to answer their driving question,” Roberson wrote in an email.

Contributed photo A student designs jewelry for the AVID project in Jessica Brown’s first grade class at Sunflower Elementary.

With guidance from Brown and Roberson, the first graders learned how to design, craft and market clay jewelry. They took notes and researched community organizations that could benefit from the sale of their art, and they penned statements of inspiration about their designs and thank-yous to their supporters.

They even tackled public speaking with a presentation to the Lawrence school board on May 8. Too little to reach the lectern or the fixed microphones, the youth stepped out in front to confidently describe their project and ask for support from the community during their upcoming fundraiser.

“We took notes and decided on Shy 38 because they have a big supportive farm,” one student told the board. “They have helped local farm animals in need.”

Contributed photo Jessica Brown, Sunflower Elementary teacher, and Melissa Blevins, principal, pose for a photo with students at the May 8, 2023 Lawrence School Board meeting.

In a video, one of the first graders who designed two heart necklaces spoke about feeling inspired by pastels and shapes.

“I love like roses and like different shapes,” the student said.

Contributed photo Artist-entrepreneurs of Sunflower Elementary show off their clay jewelry designs before auction.
Contributed photo Students reveal the success of their AVID fundraiser during a check presentation to Shy 38 on May 23, 2023.
Contributed photo Kris Taylor, founder of Shy 38, reacts to the presentation of a $2,000 donation by Jessica Brown’s class.
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Tricia Masenthin (she/her), equity reporter, can be reached at tmasenthin (at) lawrencekstimes (dot) com. Read more of her work for the Times here. Check out her staff bio here.

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