Return to Headlines

Winola teacher turns class projects into lasting legacy

A project-based learning initiative created a fun way for students to get new books at Winola Elementary.

“They’re going to be really happy they can just get books for a special day… I was a part of that, and it makes me excited,” said Dominic Brown, a fourth grade student at Winola Elementary.

Minch Class
Carly Minch's fourth grade class posed with the vending machine while wearing
'Royal Neighbors T-Shirts" in honor of the organization that helped fund their
class project.

Every year, fourth grade teacher Carly Minch facilitates a class project that not only spans subjects, but also time as students research, come up with an idea, make plans, research some more and implement their findings. This year their hard work paid off with a new permanent fixture at the school - a book vending machine.

“Every kid will get to pick a book on their birthday because we want everybody to have that opportunity,” said Minch. She said they will also use it as an incentive for positive behavior. 

She said her class started the project with a problem: “How can we make this happen? Is it something we would want to make happen? At the time, I didn't even know if we could get a vending machine.” 

Winola Principal Kari Roberts praised Minch’s efforts, “She does a fabulous job of gathering student-generated ideas and bringing them to life through her project-based and collaborative methods of instruction. This class project was a perfect fit for our building, as we are always working together to promote a sense of community and to bolster the love of reading. Mrs. Minch's fourth grade students have created something amazing that will be enjoyed by a large number of students for many years.” 

The interdisciplinary exercise in solving a problem taught the students life skills… like patience.

It was a 9-10 week process to secure a vending machine. It was purchased from Vander Vending in Rock Island, “They gave us a deal and the paper money we can feed into it,” said Minch.  A representative from Vander Vending met with Minch and showed her how to make adjustments to add books to the machine.

“We started this back in October. It’s been a long process. But we said good things take time. I think the accomplishment they’re going to feel when they see other kiddos showing their books - they don’t understand how good they’re going to feel to be a part of that.”

Students researched popular books for the grade levels, then they sent out a survey for students to vote on their favorite books. “Every group created a survey we sent out to all the grade levels. Those grade level kids took the survey, then my kids came back and picked the top five books out of the survey they sent out. That’s how we got our list.

“After we got our list we went through - made sure we had something for littles, midrange, after they were all good with the books that came back, it was time to purchase.”

Minch secured local grants to fund the project. “I was lucky enough to receive a $1,000 grant from Caseys in Viola. I also applied for the difference-maker grant through Royal Neighbors…  The students also created a flier to ask for donations and we have had a handful of families donate both money and books.” She said so far they have purchased 377 books - enough for each student to choose one this year, plus some extras.

Roberts said the surrounding community is proactive in supporting school initiatives. “We are extremely grateful for our community's support in purchasing books,” she said.

Minch’s volunteer hours also helped fund the machine. “I’m the president of Royal Neighbors chapter. All my volunteer hours I do with the boosters or any of my game nights - anything I do outside of my regular day - we turn in those hours, and then they give monetary donations to turn around and use.” 

Moving forward, Minch said her future volunteer hours and donations from businesses and individuals will continue to replenish the book supply. 

“Some students don’t get that opportunity to go and purchase a book or find a book, we’re promoting reading and it’s just good stuff,” she said.

Book Purchase
Layker DeCoster was the first student to choose a book from the new vending
machine for his birthday.

Minch said she first saw the idea on national television, implemented by a school out west, “But they actually have true book vending machines for books. So, they were highlighted and showcased for raising the money.”

Every Winola Elementary student has had the opportunity to use the machine, retroactively, as a birthday gift. “The kids are loving it! I have May and summer birthdays left,” said Minch.

Minch said projects that leave a legacy adds an element of pride for students, “Hopefully, just like when my group did the innovation lab and the  outside library, it’s something they can say in 10 years, ‘Hey I was a part of that, and that’s still there’.

“I preach kindness and thinking about others before yourself. This is one way to do that - in the simplest of ways.”



Cala Smoldt, Communications Coordinator