Early morning shopping at Home Depot in Rock Hill often finds contractors looking for more shingles, or maybe a shopper out to buy a new garden hose.
But a troop of enthusiastic fifth-graders, armed with iPads and clipboards isn’t something you’d expect to find at the home improvement store.
But Friday morning was different, as Andy Morton’s class and lots of helpers took to the store to build seven “Little Free Libraries” for the Rock Hill community.
This all got started with the theme of inequalities, which Morton has incorporated into every social studies standard this year for his class of all boys at India Hook Elementary School. During a discussion about inequalities, one of his students said that his mother, who doesn’t speak English well, loves to read, but that the family didn’t have access to books written in Spanish.
“We decided to make something called a Little Free Library for people who want to get books but they get off work (too late) or just can’t get to the library,” student Zach Helms said.
Little Free Libraries, which number in the thousands across the globe, are curbside libraries with the simple motto, “Take a book, leave a book,” said Terry Plumb, former Herald editor, who has a Little Free Library in front of his home on Eden Terrace.
Anybody can take or leave whatever they’d like, all on the honor system.
For the last several months, the students have worked on designing these structures, which will go in seven different Rock Hill communities. Funding for the project came from a grant from the Rock Hill School District Foundation.
At Home Depot on Friday, the boys split off into groups of four and headed out across the store, first figuring out how much all the materials cost to practice their math skills. Then they headed to the front of the store, where work stations were set up with pre-cut pieces from the staff at Home Depot and the boys set to work, gluing and hammering the pieces together to create boxes with a door that will house donated books.
“We love giving back, so any time we can give back to the community, it’s a great thing,” said store manager Chase Knowles.
Preparing for and completing this project has allowed the boys to pull from lots of different areas of their education, from problem-solving and teamwork skills to technology and math skills, said India Hook principal Crystal Guyton, who was in the thick of it on Friday, helping the boys assemble their libraries.
“We’re using a mixture of math and we’re learning how to use tools appropriately,” said student Trevor Millington.
India Hook has collected hundreds of books to start stocking the Little Free Libraries, as has Cheer for Children, a Rock Hill organization that frequently gives away books.
“The boys have been really into this,” Guyton said. “We’re so excited.”
Even new Rock Hill schools Superintendent Kelly Pew, who was visiting the area for a few days, got in on the act, following the boys around the store as they shopped and helping students assemble the libraries.
“I was invited by (teacher Andy Morton),” she said. “This is what it’s all about so I’m delighted to be here.”
Morton, who led the students through every phase of the project, said his feelings about Friday’s event were “beyond words.”
“One student said to me, ‘Mr. Morton, with this project, I’m going to be able to have my mom read to me in Spanish,’ ” Morton said. “He was just so excited to have the opportunity to have books read to him in his native language.”
After Friday’s build, the boys will have to paint the libraries, then go out into the community to install them – just in time for summer reading.