Townsend Elementary students are delving into the novel “Bridge to Terabithia” in a unique way. They are putting themselves in the shoes of the story’s main character as he tours the National Art Gallery.
The cross-curriculum project combines the novel study with art, research, history and social studies. Each student chose an artist that he or she might find in a national gallery, learned about that artist and the time period they lived in and then created their version of one of the artist’s famous works.
Fifth-grade teacher DeeAnne Stallions and her job-sharing partner Kerri Rippetoe and Title 1 literacy teacher Jane Pate are leading the cross-curriculum novel study project.
Stallions said the students went to the library and researched different artists they would see if they, like the book’s character Jess Aarons, toured the gallery. “They wrote a report, and they each chose a piece to replicate,” she said. “I let them collaborate with partners, but they each created their own art work,” said Stallions.
The students created their own replica of artists such as Van Gogh, Monet, Piccaso, DaVinci.
Pate said this project hopefully will plant a seed of interest in the arts. “I think it sparks an interest in them of the places they want to go when they grow up,” she said.
Stallions said the students had to explain each artist’s place of birth, their particular school of study, their time period and the type of art they created.
The project brought different courses of study such as language arts, social studies and art together. “You teach everything together, and the cross-curriculum resonates with the students,” Pate said.
In the chapter of the story the Townsend teachers keyed on, a boy and a girl, Jesse Aaron and his new friend Leslie Burke, create an imaginary kingdom in the woods near their home that is accessible only by a rope swing over a creek. They go there everyday after school.
A key point in the novel is when Jesse accompanies his music teacher, Miss Edmunds to the National Gallery of Art in Washington, and Leslie goes to Terabithia alone. It is this turning point in the novel that the Townsend teachers highlighted and built the project around. Even the choice of the chapter is a teaching point for the class.
Pate said the chapter the students focus on during the project is pivotal to the rest of the story. “They’re starting to see what to look for in a story and the pivoval points.”
Principal John Dalton said the teachers present opportunities in which students can be engaged by art. “The teachers go above and beyond to provide engaging curriculum, and the students are so into it that they will ask for time to work on it,” he said. “It’s a lot of work on the teacher’s part. They go above and beyond.”
Stallions said projects such as the “Bridge to Terabithia” novel study give her an opportunity to tie in different subject areas or themes. Pate added the projects also make a better classroom as far as discipline problems. “They’re so actively involved, they have no discipline problems,” she said.
Dalton praised Stallions and Pate for their work. “DeeAnne is an excellent, excellent teacher,” he said. “And Jane, she gets into every classroom. She’s that extra set of hands when a teacher needs help.”
The principal also praised Kerri Rippetoe, the teacher who job-shares the fifth grade class with Stallions and who is currently on maternity leave. “DeeAnne Stallions teaches in the morning - reading, language arts and writing and Kerri does math, science and social studies in the afternoon,” he said. “It works for them, for us and certainly for the students.”
Dalton said there are 137 students at Townsend Elementary, and the sense of community at the school is strong. “I know every child’s name. All our teachers hold high standards for the students here.
“It is a small community school, and the residents take such pride in it. There’s a high expectation from the community to take care of these kids, and the community is here to support us.”