“We’ve always used ‘koala kiss’ in our alphabet for learning the letter K,” explained DES teacher Tammy Ridge. Her students came up with the idea for a fundraiser for Australia’s koalas when Arabella Myers responded, “I wish I could really kiss the koalas.”

“Did you hear about the koalas in Australia? All their trees are burning down,” said Dunsmuir Elementary School first grader Royce Henson last month. His simple statement turned into a learning experience and also a fundraiser.

“We’ve always used ‘koala kiss’ in our alphabet for learning the letter K,” explained DES teacher Tammy Ridge. Her students came up with the idea for a fundraiser for Australia’s koalas when Arabella Myers responded, “I wish I could really kiss the koalas.”

“I told the class that we cannot go to Australia but maybe we can help them,” Ridge said.

Ridge brought candy kisses to her class the following day and suggested to her students that they could raise money to help the koalas in Australia. DES principal Susan Keeler suggested helping kangaroos, too, since they also start with the letter K and are also suffering in Australia’s fires.

The students were asked to bring in their spare change to buy koala and kangaroo candy kisses. It became the subject matter in math and art. Students learned about Aborigines, nocturnal marsupials, and other Australian topics. It evolved into a week’s worth of learning for the children, said Ridge. By bringing in their change they learned how to count coins and what adds up to a dollar.

Each student that donated their change received a card that’s placed on the Koala/Kangaroo Donation Board and all will receive thank you notes.

Out of the 90 students in the school, 80 donated change and some donated multiple times. In one week, that change added up to $237.

“When these kids don’t have much and they share and bring in their own money, it is significant. It is a big deal. It was incredible to see these young children showing so much gratitude and learning that they can make such a difference,” said Ridge.

“I’m happy,” said 7 year-old Arabella Myers about the project. “It’s smart that we can help the koalas. We learned a lot about counting money by doing this.”

First grader Landon Martin said, “We’re helping the kangaroos too because we care about them though I don’t want to own one because they’re wild.”

All the money that is collected will be sent to Ellen DeGeneres’ Australia Bushfire Relief GoFundMe campaign.

After the last assembly, a parent suggested putting donation cans around town. The children made cans that were placed around the Dunsmuir community. These cans will be out until Valentine’s Day on Feb. 14.

To make a donation, the Koala/Kangaroo Kisses cans are at the Chevron station, Dunsmuir Hardware, the Pizza Factory, Burger Barn, Manfredi’s Food & Gas Depot, at the concession stands at the basketball games and in the Dunsmuir Elementary School’s office.