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Beth Sommers


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"We've consistently found that most students readily go the extra mile when they get to do project-based learning," Beth Sommers told Education World. "They really jump in with both feet and spend a lot of time at home to create something they can be proud of."

Beth Sommers' students get "spooky" in their Explorers' Graveyard.

While she was working online, Sheila Pratt, Sommers' fellow fifth grade teacher at Greenland (New Hampshire) Central School, discovered the idea of having students create a "graveyard" for well-known explorers. The students loved creating memorials for famous explorers and reading the "epitaphs" written by others.

"As in many special projects, we collaborated and came up with a version that worked for us and the three fifth grade classes at the school," recalled Sommers. "In view of the tremendous success of the project last year, we will be doing it again this year. It will be assigned so the graveyard will be on display in the hallway during the week of Halloween."

Sommers' students are given detailed guidelines for their projects. The epitaph must include an explorer's date of birth and death, three facts or accomplishments, rhyming verse, and a creative design on the tombstone. Neatness and correct spelling also are taken into account. The tombstones are largely made of poster board that measures 12x18 inches, but three-dimensional, free-standing tombstones receive extra credit.


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"One memorable tombstone was made by a student who deduced that explorers probably didn't have tombstones made out of 'granite' per se, so she and her father cut a slab of wood from a tree and then carved the epitaph into it," Sommers shared. "Another student encased a silk rose in the top of his life-like, free-standing tombstone."

Sommers also was impressed by the verses penned by her students. Many were well-developed and original. Giving the students adequate time to research and construct their tombstones was vital to the success of the project. Another essential aspect was a large graveyard scene that was used to display the tombstones for the kids, their parents, and other visitors to enjoy.

"We made a large spooky tree out of black bulletin board paper and added a full moon, bats, and skeleton head fencing on the perimeter," Sommers stated. "In our photos, the kids really got into acting scary and graveyard-like!"

Article by Cara Bafile
Education World®
Copyright © 2007 Education World

10/09/2007