Teachers and students from the Pathways Program at Murray Elementary School in Dublin recently participated in a food drive to benefit Tri-Valley Haven, a vital community resource serving adults and children who have experienced domestic or economic upheaval.

Through the program’s involvement in California Destination Imagination’s Souper Hero Challenge, students used creative problem-solving skills to host a food drive in their community while social distancing.

Sharon Kovalevsky, a Pathways teacher, had students prepare hand-written notes for their neighbors requesting their help in collecting canned and boxed foods, baby formula and toiletries.

“It is important that children are taught compassion and empathy for others and that they make connections with those around them, even in the midst of social distancing,” she said. “These challenges help them take ownership, develop time-management and organizational skills and see that they are an important part of building their communities.”

According to its website, www.caldi.org, California Destination Imagination is a project-based, kid-driven program that teaches children to be innovative problem solvers.

Using STEAM, teams of students collaborate, think outside the box and create unique solutions to one of seven different challenges in preparation for a fun, problem-solving competition. This nonprofit, volunteer-led organization aims to inspire and equip students to become the next generation of innovators and leaders.

Evelyn Bathla, an incoming first-grader in the Pathways Program, and her mother, Shveta Chanda, jumped at the chance to participate in the summer food drive.

“We were both very happy and motivated to help out with the Souper Hero Challenge,” Chanda said. “When you live in a community, you have to help the people there who are in need. It is especially important that children understand that they can and should help, even when they don’t know the people themselves. Evelyn learned that everything helps, and everyone can help.”

In addition to collecting food donations for Tri-Valley Haven with this drive, the Pathways Program previously helped with fundraisers for diabetes, animal shelters and sickle-cell research.

According to the Dublin Unified School District website, www.dublin.k12.ca.us, Pathways is open to all students in kindergarten through fifth grade, and the mixed-age classes support a diversity of learning styles and rates of learning. Teachers differentiate instruction and offer choice, while students collaborate in small groups or work independently. Children can nurture and be nurtured while learning to mentor one another and gaining respect for each other’s unique strengths and skills.

Additionally, Pathways students run their own garden, newspaper and science experiments; learn Spanish or Chinese weekly; and cook, sing, dance and perform.

For more information about California Destination Imagination, visit www.caldi.org. For more information about the Pathways Program, visit https://bit.ly/Indy_Pathways.