NEWTON, N.J. — The students in John Sucameli’s fifth grade class at Halsted Middle School recently completed a service learning project for Manna House, as a part of their science studies of renewable energy sources and their impact on the planet.

"The Manna House helps us so we should help them back," student Anthony Bongiardina said.

"The earth belongs to us so we need to take care of it," student Mitzari Garcia said.

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The lessons included a review of the students’ environmental impacts, according to Sucameli. They chose Manna House is “located in our own community and services many families,” Sucameli said. “We wanted to choose an organization that was in the heart of our town.”

A mission of the First Presbyterian Church of Newton, Manna House has been serving the community since November 16, 1987. The Deacons of the First Presbyterian Church proposed the idea of an interdenominational soup kitchen to area churches and now Manna House is staffed by volunteers from 26 congregations, according to the organization.

As a “neighbor” of the Halstead School, the students chose Manna House for their service project. They inquired to see if there was a way to “make something to help the organization,” Sucameli said. They found Manna House did not have any tablecloths or place mats for the tables on which the meals are served.

Sucameli proposed the idea of making reusable place mats, to brighten up the tables. 

“The place mats teach people in the community that eat there about renewable energy,” student Sean Brown said. “This will help everyone learn how to help our planet.”

"I enjoyed this project because I learned about new resources we have," student Jazmin Marrero-Martinez said.

The students designed their layout using Google slides, Sucameli said. The slides were then printed on 11 x 17 paper in color to create the place mat. They were then laminated to make them reusable.

A representative from Manna House came to visit the students and talk about their mission.  The students presented her with their placemats. 

All of the materials came from the school. Sucameli said the “amazing administrative assistants in our main office helped out with laminating the project.”

"I loved helping my community and the environment by doing this project," student Cheyenne Whitesell said.