Valentine’s Day is an occasion for celebrating love, secret admirers and crushes, but in first grade — when girls still think boys are icky — it’s mostly all about the candy.

Conversation Hearts. Gummy bears. Heart-shaped suckers.

That’s the stuff Valentine’s Day is made of, first-grade kids in Nicole Bickham’s class at Old River Elementary agreed upon Wednesday as they tore through bags filled with valentine grams stuffed with sweets.

One girl gasped and covered her hands over her mouth as she pulled a bag Warheads sour candy out of her bag.

“There’s kisses on his face!” she shrieked upon seeing the valentine-themed logo — a soured face with an exploding head, complete with lipstick stains on his cheeks.

The valentine exchange represents an age-old tradition where gradeschool kids exchange valentines, candy grams — and perhaps even an occasional love note from a secret admirer.

But it’s the promise of candy that the students in Bickham’s class found most alluring — not so much the butterflies that come from wondering whether a crush will slip a love note in their bag.

Students, however, didn’t get off so easy. They still had to write love notes to their “crushes” as part of a class assignment.

Those “crushes” had been drawn at random out of a hat.

George, a smiling boy who couldn’t control his giggles, pointed across the room to his crush — another boy.

“Dear, you are smart and sweet to me,” he wrote. “Love, George.”

So, does George have a real crush? He blushed and buried his face in his desk. 

Valerie, a chatty brunette who was far more interested in candy than love notes, couldn’t even read the illegible note her secret admirer scribbled to her.

What did he mean to write?

“I don’t know,” he said, shrugging his shoulders before racing to the back of the room for a strawberry soda and soft cookie.

It didn’t seem to bother Valerie, who bounced her sack of candy.

“I’m going to eat all this tonight,” she said. “I’m going to eat it in bed!”

One little girl was clear in her crush’s note that she loved him — but only as a friend.

“Thank you for being a good friend. I hope we could have a playdate soon. I love you as my friend. You are such a good friend,” she wrote above a picture she drew of the two together on a swing set.

One little boy, Nicholas, was the center of attention, hollering in excitement when he found one special valentine from a girl named Chloe. She attached a Starbucks gift card — one that Bickham said was likely a card her mom depleted of funds and gave to her “just for play.”

“Chloe, is this real?” he asked from across the room, the envy of the entire class.

She shrugged, a little unsure herself.

“Yes!” he exclaimed. “And I’m not giving this to my mom!”

Harold Pierce covers education and health for The Californian. He can be reached at 661-395-7404. Follow him on Twitter @RoldyPierce