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School lessons beyond the books

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Through the field outside Richford Elementary school students walk past the lumber yard, over the bridge bearing the town's name to the community center where lunch is ready to be served.

Lunch is prepared by the students of Mrs. Starr's fifth- and sixth-grade class and they are serving it to their neighbors who are seniors or elders as the kids call them.

Zach Longley, 11, and his classmates serve lunch to 30 or so seniors as part of school.

"It's fun to see them and the smiles on their faces," said student Longley. "It makes me feel very kind inside and outside."

And that's the goal to teach the kids about kindness and community service.

Regulars like Mary Rivard say the oldest in the room are getting a lot out of it too.

"Just to see their energy, wishing we had some of it --we did at one time -- but it's nice," said Rivad.

It's not just serving food; the students provide the entertainment and even do the dishes.

Besides the extra help, organizer Shareen Lacey says having the class adds important intergenerational interaction.

"Look at all these hands and legs; it's great," said Lacey. “I think the seniors were a little surprised at first that they had young people wanting to help them and they just love it."

Faith Marshia, 10, says the focus on kindness has carried over well beyond the mealtime.

"There was a lot of kids who were like really mean in our class but now they're kind of more kind," said Marshia.

Infectious kindness sparked by teacher Amanda Starr's brainchild.

"I think it's as important to teach my students how to be human beings. I think that's as important as the content curriculum I need to teach," said Starr.

Lessons no textbook can teach and lessons that are well worth the walk.

In addition to the monthly senior lunches the students of Mrs. Starr's class also spend time during school hours visiting with and reading to Alzheimer's patients at Our Lady of the Meadows nursing home in Richford.

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