Festival offers lessons for teachers and students

lcorley@macom.comJuly 16, 2014 

Nearly a dozen sixth-grade students from Middle Georgia were instructed to flee from their classroom on July 9. The barefooted 11-and 12-year-olds ran from their soon-to-be captors and faced obstacles along the way. Wearing vests made from brown paper bags, they hid in the secret annex of a young Jewish girl.

Brandie Allen is one of the people responsible for what the children experienced that day. Her plan wasn’t to scare the students or torture them; rather, she offered them a glimpse of what it was like for Jewish children during Word War II.

Allen, a senior in Middle Georgia State College’s School of Education in Macon, was one of 46 student teachers acquiring practical classroom teaching experience at the college’s fourth annual Summer Learning Festival last week.

The kids were actually on the college’s Warner Robins campus in a classroom that was transformed to look like scenes from the Holocaust. A German classroom set in 1942, Anne Frank’s room and a concentration camp were among the scenes the students saw that day.

The one-day festival enrolled nearly 100 students from across the midstate. Aimed at rising second- through sixth-graders, the festival focuses on several subjects, including history, social studies and fine arts.

This year’s event marked the first time the festival had been held in Warner Robins instead of on the Macon campus.

Loleta Sartin, an assistant professor of education, said the college seniors teaching at the learning festival receive class credit.

“This course is a designing interdisciplinary curriculum course,” Sartin said. “In this course, the students learn how to incorporate multi-content lessons into engaging interactive lessons.”

While the younger students don’t get academic credit, it’s a mutual learning experience because they are absorbing some of the state’s new Common Core curriculum for the upcoming school year.

Sartin said it’s not just a history lesson for the younger students.

“It’s social studies, math, literacy and all of the arts -- visual arts, drama, music and dance,” Sartin said.

Bryce Beebe, a rising fourth-grader at Warner Robins’ Sacred Heart School, said he learned a lot about the significance of America’s most recent national holiday.

“We’re learning about the Declaration of Independence, and we’re learning about the (Revolutionary) War,” Beebe said. “We’re talking about how come the Fourth of July is so famous.”

Beebe and his classmates made fake firecrackers with the help of a few teachers who dressed like patriots.

For a class on civil, human and worker’s rights, teachers donned superhero-like capes to teach second-graders about pioneers such as Susan B. Anthony, Rosa Parks, Eleanor Roosevelt and Cesar Chavez.

The students marched with picket signs and yelled, “We want the right to vote!”

Rising third-graders learned dances and listened to jazz tunes from the roaring 1920s before they studied about the Great Depression. The classroom was decorated to look like a shanty town, and the students wore burlap sacks.

Samantha Viator, a senior student teacher, said she had to do a lot of research to prepare the day’s lessons.

“We did an activity where we were talking about foods they had in the Great Depression,” she said. “We weighed potatoes, apples, and then we got the volume of things like water and apple cider. Then we had them make their own Kool-Aid by deciding how much (powder) they should put into the water.”

In addition to their newfound knowledge, students at the learning festival left with bags of crafts, goodies, food, journals and other material they gathered on their journey across the world through history.

Taylor Waits, a rising fourth-grader from Warner Robins, learned about the American Revolution and the Gold Rush of 1849.

“I didn’t expect it to be this cool or exciting,” Taylor said.

To contact writer Laura Corley, call 744-4382.

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