FORT RUCKER, Ala. -- While many were taking the time to celebrate Valentine's Day with their significant others, Fort Rucker Primary School students showed their hearts to those who oftentimes go unloved.

As part of their 100th day-in-school celebration, the school held its annual Love Assembly Feb. 14 in the gymnasium where students gathered to welcome representatives from animal shelters across the Wiregrass and to donate food to help their four-legged friends in need, according to Yvette Esteves-Hurst, Fort Rucker Primary School Spanish teacher.

During the assembly, representatives from each of the shelters introduced the students to some of the animals that are housed at their facilities to show the different personalities of each animal, as well as to give a face to those who can't speak for themselves.

The shelters represented included, Kitty Kottage of Dothan; Big Bend Wildlife Sanctuary, Sweet Doberman Rescue and Save Our Strays Animal Shelter in Enterprise; the Ozark Dale County Humane Society; and Lil' Tykes Animal Rescue in Daleville. For many of the representatives, putting faces on those animals was an important lesson for the students.

"It's very important, so (the children) grow up knowing the respect and what it means that some animals do not have homes, and that they are in shelters and that they do need help," said Stephanie Barry, Sweet Home Doberman Rescue. "They can't speak for themselves, so we are their voice."

Amy McManus, of Ozark Dale County Humane Society, said that it's important the children understand the responsibility and compassion needed to take care of animals that can't take care of themselves.

"We love coming out here to teach the kids because if you don't teach them young, they're never going to learn," she said. "You have to teach them how to treat animals and that will go with them into adulthood. You need to raise the next generation to know what to do."

McManus said she has always been an animal lover, but it was something that her husband wasn't accustomed to, but having spent time together throughout the years, he also has come to care for animals, which is why they now house six dogs and four cats in their home.

"He didn't grow up with animals … so (compassion) can be a learned behavior," she said. "You can change people's minds once you meet the animals and learn to love them."

Although one of the biggest lessons of the assembly is compassion, another purpose of the efforts was to incorporate part of the school's curriculum.

"In 2006, we began this activity to integrate all areas of the curriculum and to give back to our surrounding communities," said Esteves-Hurst. "Now, this is a fun, yearly event at our primary school that provides a setting that connects mathematical language and symbols to the everyday lives of the students."

In total, the students collected 110 items of food for cats and dogs. This exceeded their goal of 100, but as the Spanish teacher said, the lesson wasn't just about giving, it was also meant to be a learning opportunity that integrated mathematics while giving back.

"We are guided by the College and Career Ready standards, and one of them is to learn to count to 100 by ones and by tens - this activity helps students meet this standard," she said, adding that this was accomplished by grouping the food items in groups of 10 to be donated to the various animal shelters.

Following the assembly, the food was divided between the shelters and presented to each of the representatives to take back to their respective facilities.

Esteves-Hurst said she was grateful to the parents of the primary school students, because without them, their efforts would not have been able to become a reality.