During January of each year, elementary schools in Collier County harness their creative efforts to involve parents and students in literacy activities to promote reading. It was my pleasure to participate in three of these events at three different schools. Messages of encouragement, family involvement and positive memories about reading and learning permeated each Literacy Night event as evidenced by the smiles from students, staff and parents.
Tommie Barfield Elementary held a Jurassic Park extravaganza with two costumed Tyrannosauruseseses (sorry, was carried away!) and an archeological dig where students excavated to find fossils. Not even rain dampened the experience as families encountered more dinosaurs, activities, a volcano, pizza, and a scavenger hunt of sorts to document the literacy activities that they completed. Students performed karaoke, charades, explored the jungle-like hallways lined with dinosaurs, cliffs and a waterfall! On their way to the stunning Scholastic Book Fair in the Media Center, students had an opportunity to experience active dinosaurs in prehistoric settings through the technology of virtual reality.
When asked what his favorite part of the event was, Chase Cook hesitated, “Everything, I couldn’t possibly choose one thing!”
Principal Katie Maya remarked, “Watching the excitement and hearing the squeals of pure joy as students excavated for fossils and witnessed “the dinosaurs.” Who else but a teacher would dress in a blow-up, dinosaur-riding paleontologist costume just to see our students smile? The whole event lifts your spirits!”
Coordinator of the event, Reading Coach Molly Skudnig, with many enthusiastic staff members dressed as paleontologists, grinned enthusiastically as they watched the parent/student engagement at all the activity centers. One of the many parents that attended walked into the multi-purpose room, stopped, looked around and said, “Yep, this is my school!”
Mabel Pena, fifth-grade teacher, commented, “The night took our school back to prehistoric times filled with love, laughter and expanding our vocabulary. Our reading coach goes above and beyond to make this a memorable event for all.”
“A huge thanks to Molly Skudnig for all the time and effort she put into planning and guiding the event, it was truly an act of love,” said Principal, Mrs. Maya.
“This event would not be possible without the combined collaboration of our entire amazing TBE staff. The week was truly dino-mite and students could see the love of reading everywhere, including on the walls. A huge thank you to everyone who attended and made literacy a priority at Tommie Barfield,” Mrs. Skudnig added.
Another Literacy Week visit was to Parkside Elementary School. Principal Tammy Stewart proudly shared the literacy activities created for her students and parents, including math games to practice their thinking skills, art related activities and much more.
As we walked to the dark area outside the school with the telescopes, amazingly, one of the largest and brightest falling stars blazed away overhead. Thanks to the members of the Everglades Astronomical Society, students and parents were assisted up the ladders to eye the planets and constellations up close and personal. Listening to the exclamations of awe and shock was just as much fun as actually seeing the planet and constellations.
There were food trucks, a movie playing outside in the darkened grassy area where family members watched together, a Sky Lab where families could enter the dark world of space and witness the universe on the dome’s ceiling along with information about the constellations, the sun, and much more which dove-tailed cosmically with the telescopes outside. The Parkside staff was enthusiastic and so were their students.
Shadowlawn Elementary School also celebrated Literacy Week with activities for students and parents. Principal Dr. Oliver Phipps showed me around his beautiful school and greeted his students and parents with delight. Their book fair was set up in a separate room, filled with displays and tables full of books for students to page through before deciding what to buy. Another room was decorated by teachers to provide a twinkly-light environment for reading with flashlights, which was a big hit with students.
There was guitar music in the courtyard, thanks to the Facility Manager, and a game similar to the Cake Walks of yesteryear, but when the last person was left, he/she could choose a book. How fitting for a Literacy Week activity.
My only regret was that I couldn’t attend all the Literacy Week Events across the school district to experience the bonds between our teachers, students and parents and their mutual love of learning together in our schools.