Breckenridge fifth-graders learn about disasters
With medieval costumes draped over their regular clothing, four fifth-graders at Breckenridge Elementary hid behind a cardboard castle and used a rat puppet to quiz the audience about the bubonic plague. The children then played their music video chronicling the disease’s 14th century effect on Europe, set to the tune of Gwen Stefani’s “Hollaback Girl.” “Oooo, fleas on rats, fleas on rats,” the children sang along. The presentation was one of seven this past Thursday, all part of the elementary school’s third annual fifth-grade exhibition: The ending project for students aged 10 to 12 completed with the school’s Primary Years Programme. The PYP is the first step in the International Baccalaureate program, a method of teaching meant to develop intellectual, personal, emotional and social skills in students 3 to 19 years old. The ending project – which demonstrates student learning so far – splits students into groups and has them research and present information on a chosen topic, all centered around the same theme. This year, the school’s two fifth-grade classes chose: disasters incite different societal responses. Individual groups highlighted the black plague, natural disasters, pandemics, famine, floods and manmade disasters. Fifth-grade teacher Kai Miller – who also taught some of her current students in first grade – said she was very proud of the work the children had done. “They’ve been in the IB program since kindergarten,” she said. “I can see the difference that IB has made to their learning. They’re able to research, find and synthesize information in a way students weren’t able to do a few years ago.” One student group from her class chose to talk about pandemics. They presented pre-taped interviews with local experts – like Dr. Joanne Stolen – about what different pandemic diseases were, and how they move around. The children also interviewed each other, while dressed like scientists, about polio, typhoid and AIDs; and how fast germs can spread throughout the world. As an “action piece,” the children will be visiting local preschools to talk about how germs spread.”It’s an extraordinary feeling to see how independent these kids are able to be, and how deep their learning has become,” said Elizabeth Mesick, second-grade teacher and mentor to the group. “Their action piece they decided on is actually something I think will make a difference in the world.” “At first, when we heard we were doing the exhibition, I felt excited but nervous because I’ve seen all the different groups for the past few years do it, and I was kind of afraid that ours wouldn’t turn out too well. But, it turned out great,” said student Nash LaFrankie. “I didn’t know what a pandemic was, I didn’t know how fast germs and diseases and stuff could spread, but I learned all that during our research time in about a week.” Student Nicole Graham, who was part of the black plague presentation, said her group picked their subject after learning 25 million people died. “We were trying to find the most tragic disaster in history,” said fellow presenter Max Jacobs.Michelle Miller and Jeff Andrews, whose daughter Chloe took part in the plague exhibition, said they were so proud of their daughter they saw her presentation twice.”I am so impressed with this,” Miller said. “They’ve been working on it for a couple of months.”Annie Evans, whose daughter Geneva helped present the past, present and future of famine, said it was really neat to see her daughter learn about the subject through visits with workers from the Family & Intercultural Resource Center.”She got it. She understands how it’s a local and a universal problem,” Evans said. “She didn’t know there was hungry people in our community. She learned quite a bit. It was really neat.”
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