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Archive for November 16th, 2013

Discover. Play. Build.

Ruth Ayres is gathering Saturday Celebration posts on her blog. Click the image above to visit.

Early in October, I had an author visit my gifted classroom. Chere’ Coen wrote the book Haunted Lafayette. When she was talking to the students about ghost stories, she mentioned Jefferson Island, and the students did not know anything about a location just down the road. Rip Van Winkle Gardens located on Jefferson Island is a land of beauty while also a place of historical and geological significance. I decided to remedy their lack of knowledge by planning a field trip.

The weather in November can be iffy. On Tuesday and Wednesday of this week, we had a cold front and temperatures dipped while the wind blew hard. All that went away Friday, and the sky opened to the sun. Temperatures rose to a comfortable 75 degrees. The heavens were shining on our day.

I invited some other teachers along, so we gathered 32 area gifted kids from second through sixth grade. They watched a video and learned about the actor Joseph Jefferson for whom the island was named. They learned about the salt dome disaster of 1980 when an oil drill punctured the salt dome causing a whirlpool that closed the salt mine and caused damage to acres of land. The owner’s home fell into the lake leaving only the chimney visible today.

A huge gong hangs from an old oak tree.

A huge gong hangs from an old oak tree.

Lake Peigneur with chimney

Lake Peigneur with chimney

We toured the historical mansion, and took a nature walk along the trails through the lush and beautiful gardens. Even before I told them they could, the students started collecting items from nature. They couldn’t help themselves. They picked up peacock feathers, moss, flowers, bamboo sticks, pinecones, etc. I gave them ziplock bags to hold their collection.

After collecting, I gave the students a Private Eye loupe magnifying glass. The exercise went like this: Look at your chosen object through the loupe and ask the question, “What does it look like? What else? What else?” In this manner, students were able to build a metaphor poem. This exercise worked well for my youngest writers. Here are a few.

emily private eye poem

erin metaphor poem

private eye

Kielan metaphor poem copy

A little lagniappe (South Louisiana for something extra) occurred when the owner saw me and asked how the day was going. I introduced myself and explained how the students did not know the stories of Jefferson Island. He brought me into the gift shop and handed me a DVD and a book. When I introduced him to two of our students, he told them some of the ghost stories. What a thrill for these kids and for me! Today I celebrate the success of our field trip, the learning, observing, writing, and friendships!

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