First-grade students at Columbus Signature Academy — Fodrea campus took a special interest in elephants while learning about endangered animals this year. So, they decided to lend a helping hand.

After learning about several different endangered species — including elephants, sea turtles, rhinos and Monarch butterflies — their habitats and why they have become endangered, the students voted to focus on elephants and find a way to help, said Erin Mattern, CSA-Fodrea project manager.

“The students really surprised us with this project,” said Stephany Kiel, a first-grade teacher at CSA-Fodrea. “It was their first project as first-graders, and their stamina and compassion was amazing.”

In their elephant research, the students and teachers stumbled across The Elephant Sanctuary in Hohenwald, Tennessee. The Elephant Sanctuary is the nation’s largest natural-habitat refuge. The nonprofit organization operates on 2,700 acres and was developed specifically to aid endangered African and Asian elephants. As a sanctuary, it is not open to the public, but students were able to speak with members of the organization via Skype, an online video chat software.

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After speaking with the members of the sanctuary, students decided on a garage sale as a way to raise money to donate to the organization.

To prepare, students learned about money, sorting items and creating graphs in order to organize their data.

They raised $463.31 at the Nov. 4 garage sale, which sold items donated by school families, including everything from clothes to household items to toys, Mattern said.

This money will be used to buy education supplies for the sanctuary to use in its classroom education programs, Mattern added.

How to help

Want to help the elephants? You can donate to the Elephant Sanctuary or even adopt an elephant on its website. Go online at and choose “Donate” to donate or “Support an Elephant” then “Adopt an Elephant” to adopt.

Even though the sanctuary is closed to the public, you can still view the elephants in their habitat by watching live streams of the area, called Elecams, online.

Elecams can be viewed at:

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Kaitlyn Evener is an editorial assistant for The Republic. She can be reached at or 812-379-5633.