A Hop, a Skip, and a Jump
At Murray Elementary, February highlights include a unit on the study of nutrition, Valentine’s Day, and the annual Jump Rope for Heart fundraiser organized by the American Heart Association. Though the Mustangs’ goal this year was to raise $5,000 for the AHA, a newly emphasized online incentive program pushed contributions to over $8,000. “In the fifteen years I’ve been here, this is the most we’ve ever made,” said PE teacher Katherine Tillar-Hughes.
Special recognition went to a Kindergartener, 6-year-old C. J., who brought in the most money—over $750—with the help of her family and friends. “I think it’s important to raise money for the people who can’t get over heart diseases,” she said. C. J. received a cool ninja prize for her legwork, and all students received small instant prizes for registering online and for contributing any amount to the cause.
“Depending on how much we raise, the AHA also gives gift cards to the school which we can use for PE equipment like softballs and foam dodgeballs,” said Tillar-Hughes. She holds the event on a day when she sees all the classes in the school, and the students can choose either to jump rope or shoot baskets, as long as they remain active for the whole period. These days, she often has to begin a couple of weeks in advance to teach the lost art.
“Most of the younger kids do not know how to jump rope,” said Tillar-Hughes, “so we have to learn. We start with a low jump on the floor, then we work on timing, watching and listening for the rope as it swings.” More advanced is dashing in under an already-swinging rope, and she cues the students on when to make their move, “Now . . . now . . . now . . .” Double-jumping is master’s-level work.
Tillar-Hughes came to Murray in 2003 as a one-year substitute after a hiatus spent raising her own children, and she never left. She worries about the amount of screen time and junk food kids are consuming, and wants to be part of a positive change. “I also do lunch duty and I see what habits are out there. I feel like this is so important, maintaining a certain level of fitness and an awareness of good nutrition.”
As part of their study of natural disasters and extreme weather, Meriwether Lewis 2nd/3rd grade multiage classes got a lesson in preparedness from Linda Hutson, former Albemarle County school teacher and current American Red Cross volunteer. Hutson spoke to the students about the Red Cross Pillowcase Project, a program that started in New Orleans when college students used pillowcases to carry their belongings during Hurricane Katrina. The MLES students each received a pillowcase to decorate while learning about what to do in an emergency.
The most prevalent type of emergency varies by region, so the program focuses on, for example, earthquakes in California and tornadoes in the Midwest. In Virginia, 9 out of 10 calls to the Red Cross are for help with house fires. “The children have all participated in school fire drills,” said Hutson, “and they know what a household smoke detector is, but very few have ever done a home fire drill.”
After demonstrating fundamentals such as “get low and go” and how to test a doorknob with the back of one’s hand, Hutson and the students brainstormed about what could go in their emergency pillowcases. A flashlight, change of clothes, blanket, portable radio, and first aid kit were good candidates, as was a comforting toy. “Shouldn’t you take a computer,” asked one third grader, “in case you need to look something up?” Probably too heavy, advised Hutson—best to use an adult’s cell phone for that.
Second grader Kylie, who decorated her bag with a drawing of a favorite blanket, thought the pillowcase preparation would be useful in the rush of an emergency. “It’s good because then you don’t have to think about it,” she said.
Teacher Dena La Fleur said the lesson tied into the curriculum in other ways as well. “For our public speaking unit we do 4-H speeches, so each student is writing a speech about a natural disaster of their choice,” she said. Learning to be prepared will help them wherever they may roam.
All in a Day’s Work
The 100th Day of School is celebrated by classes all over the county with activities focusing on counting and using one hundred somethings. Due to school cancellations for wintery weather this year, the 100th Day slipped a little later in the calendar than originally scheduled, but the day is always a cause for excitement.
At Brownsville Elementary, Lauri Campbell’s Kindergarten class marked the occasion in four ways—counting out 100 dots or 100 pieces of snack, making necklaces with 100 beads, and drawing 100 tally marks.
Barbara Huneycutt’s second graders at Crozet Elementary used their counting skills and imaginations in a Lego Challenge, where they could use Legos or small wooden KEVA planks to build anything they wanted as long as it contained exactly 100 pieces. Students spread out on the floor in singles or pairs to construct their projects—a bridge, a tower, a huge jet airplane, even a model of the White House.
“We call it ‘100 Days Smarter,’” said Huneycutt. “It’s a fun chance for them to tie in different learning curricula by first counting out their one hundred things, then building something, and then reflecting on what they’ve built in a writing exercise.”
The 100-day mark means only 80 days remain in the school year. Better make them count.