Chet Henson, a sixth grader at Redoubt Elementary School in Soldotna, sparks an eruption of his model of Augustine Volcano during the school's Alaska Museum Day on Feb. 19.
Photo by Will Morrow
The school district’s sixth-grade social studies curriculum is built around Alaska culture and history. Covering every aspect of that rich and diverse topic can be a challenge, but teachers at Redoubt Elementary in Soldotna have come up with a solution: let the students share it with each other.
“There’s so much, we can’t teach it all, so it’s neat when the kids can teach each other,” said Krista Arthur, a sixth-grade teacher at Redoubt.
Alaska Museum Day, staged on Feb. 19 this year, has become a tradition at Redoubt, giving students an opportunity to share something they’ve learned about Alaska’s history and culture. Students pick their own topics, which cover everything from the Alaska Highway to snowmachining in the Caribou Hills.
“They spend a lot of time researching their topic, so we spend a lot of time learning how to research,” Arthur said. “... We spend a good three weeks to a month preparing kids, getting ready for it.”
The Internet has become a valuable research tool, and students learn how to use it as a resource for their projects. Arthur said students also must use a book as a source, and depending on their topic, can talk to someone involved in the activity for example, a student researching the Iditarod should interview a musher.
Students also learn about presenting the information they’ve gathered. They need an artifact to present items presented ranged from dog harnesses to fishing waders to snowmachines to a classic vinegar-and-baking-soda volcano and they need to be able to talk about their topic to the class, and answer questions following their presentations.
“It’s their day to teach the other kids, show the kids about Alaska there’s so many different things that have gone on and happened in this state,” Arthur said.
Arthur said students do learn from their peers during the project.
Jessica Jackson, also a sixth grader, talks about one of her favorite hobbies - snowmachining. Students researched Alaska history, culture, and recreation for their projects.
Photo by Will Morrow
“One comment I heard from one of my kids was, ‘Wow, I’m learning so much about my state,’” Arthur said.
Students also learn a little more about the topic they choose to study.
“I knew a little bit about it, but as I learned more, I learned this is a little more than just a road,” said Forrest Henry, who studied the Alaska Highway.
Chet Henson said he learned more about Augustine Volcano’s recent eruption, and Zane Miller said he learned quite a bit about the regulations governing duck hunting, something he does with his father.
Arthur said it’s also nice, as a teacher, to be able to tackle this kind of project.
“It seems like a lot of the time, it’s the worksheets and the text book. It’s neat when you can do projects like this,” Arthur said.
Will Morrow can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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