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Curriculum blastoff!

Crooked River Elementary has launched a new storyline project that combines lessons on core school subjects and the solar system


by: KEVIN SPERL - Madison Railey, far left, watches Katelyn Towns, center, assemble her rocket in Karen Bryant's Kindergarten class last Friday. The rockets were used to demonstrate various geometric shapes.

"Calling all explorers, it's time to blast off!"

And so begins another day of learning at Crooked River Elementary School.

Adopting the techniques of the Scottish Storyline teaching method, students, or space explorers as they prefer to be known, in kindergarten through fifth grade are collaborating to build their own out-of-this-world environment.

A solar system to be exact.

Teachers Katrina Cross, second grade, and Kim Bartolotti, first grade, the major architects behind the program, explained that the teaching method integrates curriculum through active learning, allowing students to immerse themselves in a story, both developing the setting and taking greater responsibility for their own education.

“The teacher becomes more of a facilitator, allowing a community of learning to be established,” added Amber Freeman, third-grade teacher. “It is a fun, interactive way to learn, and students always look forward to what might happen next.”

Last Friday, students in Karen Bryant's kindergarten class were making, and launching, rockets.

Disguised as a fun activity, the rocket-making project was actually a lesson in cones, cylinders, spheres, cubes and rectangular prisms.

Bryant explained that the geometric shape lesson is part of the Common Core Curriculum.

“The kids get it,” Bryant said, referring to the ability of the students to recognize the various shapes. “It’s because the lesson is hands on and part of the storyline.”

Next door, in Bartolotti’s class, students were found dropping “meteors” onto the surface of the planet Mercury.

“What do you think will happen when the meteor hits the surface of the planet?” asks Bartolotti.

“It’s going to explode,” answers one student.

“It’s going to smash into Mercury and make a crater,” answered another.

The fun activity was another disguised lesson, teaching scientific observations, the art of making predictions, and, finally, observing what actually happens and comparing that to the prediction.

It isn’t easy to qualify as a space explorer.

Each student was required to complete an official application to “Dr. Luminous,” otherwise known as high school science teacher Alan Beeckman.

The application involved students passing a pre-mission aptitude test, writing a NASA biography, and having a picture taken in a NASA space suit.

Curriculum integration into a common theme may be the goal of the method, but Crooked River has taken it one step further, integrating the entire school community into the project.

“This is the first time ever that we have had kindergarten through fifth grade participating in a story line together as a group,” said Freeman. “For us, that is a huge accomplishment.”

And, it leaves the students wondering what will happen next.



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