BLUE EARTH - A bunch of kids were hanging out at the pool at Putnam Park on Wednesday, but they weren't there to play in the water.
They were waxing the big slide and water pipes in the wading pool, and moving equipment in preparation for the pool's opening day on June 3.
All over Blue Earth, Delavan, Elmore, Frost and Winnebago, groups of Blue Earth Area middle-schoolers fanned out and raked leaves, picked up sticks, waxed and scrubbed whatever needed it as part of Service Learning Day.
Eighth-grader Dominic DeMarre, left, sprays down a fire truck while fellow Blue Earth Area middle-schoolers scrub the vehicle at the Public Safety Building in Blue Earth on Wednesday, during the annual Service Learning Day.
Teacher Holly Covington gives Clint Waddell, a sixth-grader, some tips on waxing the top of the water slide at Putnam Park.
This is the eighth year that sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders have gone into the communities and done the work, said Sara Albright, teacher and event coordinator.
"I hope the kids get a sense of pride in their community and it gives them a chance to give back to the people who give to us," she said, while supervising the kids washing trucks outside the fire station bay.
It seems to be working.
"It's fun and you can spend the day talking to your friends and helping your community," said Gunnar Fering, a seventh-grader who took part last year. "We usually have a good time."
"I just like being here and helping out and hanging out," said J.R. Karp, a sixth-grader.
Seventh-grader Marissa Waddell just moved to the area, so it was her first Service Learning Day too.
"We can help other people," she said, adding that the coolest thing was washing the fire trucks. She didn't think washing floors or vacuuming was that great.
Athena Thompson, also a seventh-grader, was on her second Service Learning Day.
"I love how my MM (Morning Meeting group) gets together and washed fire trucks and has a good time," she said.
For the kids, it's a day out of school. For their teachers, it offers a different kind of learning.
"I think it gets them out into the community and gives the opportunity to help their communities and take pride in their communities," said Nicolle Mutschler, who was wrangling her Morning Meeting group "Mutschler's Mighty Mangoes" at Gazebo Park while they raked leaves and picked up sticks. "It's a long day and they get an appreciation for what people do for them."
Teacher Holly Covington agreed.
"I think it's a good chance for them to see what the community puts into what they enjoy during the summer," she said at Putnam Park.
The students develop the skills of working together and communicating with each other, as well as seeing the end results of their hard work, she said.
"It's a good thing to show them what volunteering can do for the community, how it betters the community they live in," Covington said.