Breckenridge second-graders collect change to buy elephant |

Breckenridge second-graders collect change to buy elephant

summit daily news
Summit County, CO Colorado
Summit Daily/ Robert Allen

BRECKENRIDGE ” Second-graders at Upper Blue Elementary in Breckenridge are collecting donations to buy an Asian elephant.

But the endangered pachyderm won’t be stomping down Main Street, disrupting local traffic or vegetation. It likely will be purchased from the streets of Bangkok, Thailand, and transferred to the country’s Elephant Nature Park.

“We’re trying to raise $2,000 to send them and buy one adult female,” said Clara Miller, a student in Ellie Coakley’s second-grade class.

The students are pursuing the funds with the help of Summit County businesses that volunteer to display their hand-decorated donation jars. Miller said the students also will be offering dog washes and selling cookies and lemonade.

Coakley said they aim to reach the goal by May 1, before the semester ends, so they can learn from collecting and counting the change. She said the students have been learning about peacemaking in the past month and came up with the fundraiser as a way to help the elephants.

“We wanted to do something we could start right away,” she said, “and involve the community ” because everyone who donates is being a peacemaker.”

The plan to adopt an Asian elephant was decided after Lisa Ferguson, a paraprofessional at the school, told the students of her trip to the nature park in Thailand.

The population of Thailand’s Asian elephants has been in decline since the country banned logging in 1989.

“So there are a lot of elephants out of work,” Ferguson said, adding that many have been hurt in forest accidents.

Many of the giant animals walk the streets of Bangkok, earning money for beggars. Ferguson said the beggars will sell people a $1 banana to feed the elephants, for example.

“That’s not the way elephants should be living,” she said.

She said the urban environment also can be harmful to the elephants.

While in Thailand, Ferguson and her two kids volunteered at the nature park, cutting corn and planting grass, among other efforts.

The park has been providing sanctuary for the elephants since the 1990s and is home to more than 30 of the creatures from across the country. It’s in the Chiang Mai province and surrounded by forest. More information is available at

The Asian elephant, in particular, is “highly endangered.” Though smaller than African elephants, the Asian elephants can be as tall as 9.8 feet and as heavy as 5.5 tons. Their average lifespan in the wild is up to 60 years.

Cheri Fisk, Upper Blue’s other second-grade teacher, said the students “thought it would be a great help” to adopt an elephant.

The kids are decorating the coin containers with facts about the elephants and are making brochures and a poster to spread awareness.

Paige Schlegel, a student in Fisk’s class, said she want’s to help save the elephants “because they’re really sensitive.”

“Some people put their babies at the feet of the elephant, and then the elephant takes care of them,” she said.

The students are collecting cash as well as coin donations. Numerous local businesses have already volunteered to participate. Businesses interested in collecting donations may call Upper Blue Elementary School at (970) 547-9130.

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