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Imagination education: Students show pioneer spirit for literacy day

As Russellville, Franklin County and the state of Alabama celebrate their 200th birthdays, citizens are taking notice and reflecting on the past as well as appreciating the present.

At Belgreen, the teachers, reading specialist Michell Lane and Principal Ann Scott organized a day for elementary students to participate in this celebrating, learn about pioneer days and increase their literacy skills all at the same time. April 30 teachers and students dressed up in pioneer garb and participated in several activities inspired by the Laura Ingalls Wilder novels.

“Some of these children have never been exposed to or heard of these books,” Lane said.

That thought drove Lane to select “Little House in the Big Woods” as the book and theme for the day.

Activities were set up in stations, with two teachers from each grade hosting an activity. Students were led through each station to the different activities. They made butter, corncob dolls, paper quilt squares, paper dolls, “pig bladder” balloons and log houses.

To make the log houses, students took large cardboard rolls that had holes cut in the sides to make them fit together. According to Lane, they had to barter their goods with librarian Melissa Cox in exchange for the door for their house.

For the “pig bladder” balloon – like the one Mary and Laura Ingalls played with in the book – the students used normal balloons, but a volunteer brought in a real pig bladder for the students to see.

“It helped them visualize what was happening in the book and how resourceful people had to be in those times,” Lane said.

Scott participated by dressing up and by visiting each classroom to read the last chapter of the book to the students.

“It amazed me how attentive they were to the story,” Scott said.

Students were excited all day, according to Lane, who said that was part of their goal in organizing the literacy day.

“There’s such a focus on testing these days; it’s nice to give them something that makes them want to come to school,” she said.

It wasn’t all about fun, though. Lane said the day was meant to encourage students to read and become engaged in ways other than through technology.

“We wanted to show them what they can do without technology, but I think it also makes them appreciate the conveniences we have today,” Lane said.

As Lane pointed out, the celebration also tied in with the upcoming Pioneer Day Franklin County is hosting May 12. “We’re hoping this will encourage the students and families to participate in that.”

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