While shoveling snow Thursday morning, Hortense Harward noticed about 40 students from Springville Middle School walking toward her house. Minutes later they were on her porch singing Christmas carols in Spanish.
"It really gave me the Christmas spirit," Harward said. "But it was really cold, and I was a little worried about them not wearing underwear that was warm enough."Harward showed the students a grandmother's concern, but she had good reason: Harward and about 20 other senior citizens living near the school have been adopted as grandparents by the students.
The students take the senior citizens baked goods, fruits, candy, nuts and crafts. They visit with them, sing to them and help them when they need help.
"We have taken them things and they have just cried," said Flora Chappell, math teacher and faculty adviser to the student council. "And the kids just come back smiling and so excited."
On Thursday, the senior citizens were treated to a Christmas program and lunch at the school. They listened to the school choir sing Christmas carols and heard a reading of a Christmas story. They also learned how to play Christmas songs on the chimes.
"I can tell that these kids have been tuned in on how to care for grandparents," Harward said.
The adopt-a-grandparent program started about two weeks ago when Chappell presented the idea to the school's faculty. Once a week, Chappell takes a school lunch across the street to her mother-in-law, and she thought it might be fun to do similar things for others living near the school, especially since most are senior citizens. The faculty agreed and each class adopted a different grandparent.
"They have seen our kids come and go, and our kids have been traipsing across their lawns for 30 years. So this is something we can do to say thanks for being so understanding and such good neighbors," Chappell said.
Chappell's class is doing a 12-days-of-Christmas project for their grandparents, Harlan and Birdie Boyer. Each night, the students leave a different surprise on the Boyer's porch, ring the doorbell and hide in the bushes.
"We sit there night after night all alone," Birdie Boyer said. "And when the bell rings we get so excited wondering what the kids have left for us this time. We have no idea who they are, but we think it's the greatest."
"I think it's great for the kids," Harlan Boyer said. "They get a bang out it just as much as we do and they're doing it because they like to."
The Boyers, both 90 years old, said they enjoy seeing the students put so much effort and time into a constructive activity. They said it is important to teach children to appreciate the elderly.
Chappell said the program gives students a chance to experience the good feelings that come from sharing and giving. She said the students have learned the true meaning of Christmas. Because the students have been so receptive, the program may be carried over to Valentines Day, Easter and other holidays.
"I have had a lot of teachers say that it would be nice to keep this going,"' Chappell.