Scaring up money for a good cause in Nevada City | TheUnion.com

Scaring up money for a good cause in Nevada City

The courtyard in front of Seven Hills Middle School was abuzz with activity Friday morning as teams of fifth-graders and their family members worked to decorate and assemble scarecrows.

"First we stuffed the pants, then we stuffed the shirt and tied them together," explained class president Ari Funk. "Then we decorated the head (his favorite part) and glued the hat on."

Figuring out how to attach the burlap bag heads to the straw-stuffed bodies stumped some of the scarecrow builders. The Funks chose to staple the neck closed and then nail it to the post.

The whimsical figures will be sold at Prospector's Nursery in Nevada City for $40 each as a fundraiser for Heifer International, which provides third-world villages and communities with the gift of renewable resources in the form of livestock.

According to class parent Rachel Parnow, the nursery customers have come to eagerly await each fall's offerings.

"They get gobbled up pretty quickly," she said, noting, "'Tis the season."

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On Monday, said Ari Funk, his class will debate — "depending on how much money we earn" — what animals to purchase. A flock of chickens is just $20, while a breeding pair of cattle is $200; other options include llamas ($150), sheep ($120) and water buffalo ($250), Ari said.

"All last night, he was going through the animals, working through the list," Ari's mother, Alicia Funk, said.

"My choice is chickens, goats, rabbits and bees," Ari said. "Goats, because they can eat pretty much anything, and they produce milk and three to four kids a year … Rabbits, because they reproduce really fast. You have two rabbits and in a year, there's 300. Chickens also don't need a lot of food. And bees, because they're essential for plants, they pollinate your crops — they help the whole village, not just you, and help increase crop yields."

The scarecrow project is the brainchild of teacher Julie Bair, who initially began making scarecrows 10 years ago, with her second grade class at Nevada City Elementary School.

The first year, she said, it was just for fun. Then a parent suggested turning the project into a fundraiser.

"I researched the organizations I wanted to get behind," Bair said.

Heifer International was ideal because "the kids can visualize the animal arriving at the door of the hut and changing a life," she said,

Bair said she tells the parents at Back to School Night that this is the most important lesson she teaches her students all year.

"We start with geography," Bair said, but expands the lesson plan to writing, debate, art, science and math.

"We've studied all the animals and how they give back to people in need," she said,

While it starts in the classroom, the lesson spreads to the family and the community and then into the world, she explained, highlighting not just the family participation, but also the donated materials from Caroline's Coffee and Simply Country, as well as the help provided by Prospector Nursery in selling the scarecrows.

John Brewer, who has been a volunteer with Heifer International for 12 years, was on hand to document the day for the organization's magazine, World Ark.

Brewer said he made a presentation to Bair's class two years ago and learned about the scarecrow project then.

"I thought it was unique and really impactful," he said, citing its service learning aspect and parental and community involvement. "I was floored … They learn about different countries, about poverty and what they can do to make a difference — and have fun and create art and bring happiness to people. It's the full package!"

Contact reporter Liz Kellar at 530-477-4236 or by email at lkellar@theunion.com.

Know & Go

What: Sacarecrow sale

Where: Prospector’s Nursery, 10003 Granholm Lane, Nevada City

Phone: 530-470-0973