Fifth-Graders Say Thank You to Olathe's Finest

April 12, 2017 ~ Fifth-graders at Rolling Ridge Elementary School put their letter-writing skills to very good use recently when they wrote thank you notes for Olathe police officers. Rather than mailing the letters, they delivered them, along with some treats, to the police chief himself.

The idea for turning a writing assignment into a token of appreciation came from fifth-grade writing teacher Joanne Baxendale. She'd seen police "meet and greet" events on television and thought Rolling Ridge fifth-graders would benefit from a similar event.

"My teaching partners, Arlene Casemore and Ben Melick, loved the idea," Baxendale said. "I presented this lesson and idea to the kids and they loved it, too."

Students began thinking about what they wanted to say in the letters. Their thoughts ranged from "I want to give them joy" to "Being a police officer is harder than we thought."

"It will make their day because people are sometimes mean to them, but now they know they will have fifth-grade friends," one student said.

Students looked at the writing activity as a way to become friends with the police officers and show respect for all the officers do.

"The kids wanted to show how much they appreciate the officers for all their hard work and putting themselves at risk every time they go to work," Baxendale said.

After writing their notes of appreciation, fifth-graders turned to their artistic skills and designed labels for baggies filled with Lifesaver candies.

This interaction with police is just the beginning for Rolling Ridge, because Principal John Ernst has arranged for the department to bring its K9 officer to school in mid-May.

"I believe it is important for students to understand how vital a relationship is between law enforcement and schools," Ernst said. "Oftentimes our students see law enforcement as a negative so giving them an opportunity to see law enforcement in a positive light is important. I want our students to know that the law enforcement agencies are here to help people any way possible."

Each fifth-grader wrote a letter to an Olathe police officer, but before the letters could be delivered they had to be reviewed and fine-tuned. Teacher Joanne Baxendale helped one of her students review a letter for grammar and punctuation. teacher helps student with letter writing skills
In addition to writing letters, students made special labels for bags of Lifesaver mints to share with the officers. The brightly colored labels featured a “thank you” message for all the law enforcement officers do to keep the community safe. boy puts gift in basket
Writing letters to Olathe police officers was a real-life example of the importance of knowing the parts of speech, writing a draft version, critiquing the draft, and then fine-tuning the letter in a final version. students write letters to police officers
Olathe Chief of Police Steven Menke thanked fifth-graders from Rolling Ridge for writing letters of thanks to the officers, making baggies of Lifesaver mints, and delivering some doughnut holes to the department. boy and police chief shake hands

Fifth-graders surrounded the chief of police for a photo after an interesting question and answer session. They learned why the chief chose law enforcement as his career and how much training it takes to become a police officer.

Photos by Marlene Colgan
group photo with the chief of police