COEUR D'ALENE, Idaho — Wildfires are raging in Australia, destroying millions of acres of wildlife habitat and claiming the lives of native animals.
As the flames burn, some small hands in Skyway Elementary School's room 301 carefully pin together pieces of fabric in the shape of joey pouches.
The kids' small voices carry around the room as teacher Natalie Sozzoni helps each student get their pins to face the right direction. For the first grade class in Coeur D'Alene, the devastating fires are being used as a lesson in compassion.
Mrs. Sozzoni is having her students help make the joey pouches so that she can send them to Australia. The small cozies will help comfort baby animals who have lost their parents in the fires.
It started when Sozzoni saw a post on Facebook asking for help from anyone who can sew.
“I was like well I sew. It’s a way that I can contribute somehow. It’s like, 'how can you help?' And then I wanted to get my class involved too,” she said.
So she did. Her students helped her put together dozens of the pouches.
It was an interactive way to teach the first graders about why it's important to know what's happening internationally.
“I think it’s important to be aware of what’s going on in our world as well. And they can connect to it I think too just for their love for animals,” Sozzoni said.
One of her students, Kylie Anderson, was so excited about helping the animals she donated fabric that she bought with her own money. While telling this story, she made sure to point out that buying the fabric left her with only about $30 in her piggy bank.
The class also wrote thank you cards to the volunteers and firefighters working in Australia.
Lucas Gonzales wrote this, "Thank you for your compassion. Care. Thank you for taking care of the animals without mothers in Australia."
Sozzoni will take the notes and finished joey pouches to a local women who is planning on traveling to Australia to help with disaster relief.
“I thought how perfect, because she is going to take them in her suitcases with them on the plane. So then we won’t have a shipping cost,” Sozzoni said.
In all, the activity took about an hour. But the lesson on compassion could last a lifetime for these young children.