'Misty of Chincoteague' assignment enlivened by auction and banquet

March 08, 1993|By Carol L. Bowers | Carol L. Bowers,Staff Writer

They bid on mice, chameleons and goldfish instead of ponies.

But Jackie Williams' fourth-grade class at Broadneck Elementary School quickly caught on to what it must have been like when Misty of Chincoteague -- made famous in the Marguerite Henry books -- was auctioned off in the annual pony roundup that has become a tradition on the island.

The school auction items, which included stuffed animals, posters, a necklace and an amethyst geode, were donated by area businesses, parents and Mrs. Williams for the event Friday.

"Every year my students read 'Misty of Chincoteague,' " explained Mrs. Williams. "So every year we have a banquet just like the one they have on Pony Penning Day in the book, with the same food -- fried oysters, chicken pot pie, buttered beans, apple pie."

The book tells the story of Paul and Maureen, children who set their hearts on owning Phantom, a Chincoteague pony that usually escapes the annual wild pony roundup and auction conducted by the Chincoteague Volunteer Fire Company that follows.

One year, Phantom is captured, her escape hampered when she's slowed down by her foal, Misty. The children tame Phantom, but eventually let her return to the wild and her mate, keeping Misty with them in the only home she's known.

Mrs. Williams said she decided to try the auction for the first time this year because "some students just weren't really sure what an auction was all about," she said.

To prepare for the big day, her 34 students spent several days practicing how to hold up numbered cards to bid while Mrs. Williams polished her auctioneer's cadence.

But instead of using money, the students "spent" slips of paper they had earned for good behavior.

"Good worker slips are given out whenever a student is caught doing something right -- like following a school rule, helping another student without being asked, or practicing silent reading," said Mrs. Williams, 46. "In the fourth grade, students are trying to become more independent, so we encourage that by giving out the slips."

Students quickly got into the spirit of the day, bravely trying the fried oysters, with some going back for seconds.

They also had a taste of how effective joint buying power can be.

Four students combined their "good worker" slips to post the highest bid of the day: 126 slips for the chameleon.

Matthew Clark (10 slips); Danny Dolan (58 slips); Jake Greene (20 slips), and Thomas Hawn (39 slips) each will get to take the lizard home for a month. They'll be able to pick up their lizard from the pet shop when the weather warms up.

As with the other "live" items, the children had to have written permission from parents before bidding.

"We decided to go in together when we found out Matthew was going to get a chameleon [of his own]," said Jake, 10.

"If he gets a male and we get a female, or we get a female and he gets a male, there could be a relationship there," said Thomas, 9.

Matthew, 10, wants a chameleon to learn how they live. And the boys agreed it would be fun to have the lizard "run all over my head," as short-haired Thomas put it.

"Chameleons have a great grip," explained Matthew.

"We even had a plan, to start with a low bid and work our way up," added Danny, 9.

Lauren Zichos, 9, and Stephanie Rolland, 10, also had a plan -- to buy a pair of stuffed lions attired as the king and queen of hearts.

"We both love stuffed animals, and she was the queen of hearts in third grade," said Lauren. "And I dressed up in a similar costume just for fun at home. We spent 20 'good worker' slips on the stuffed animals. We each spent 10. We learned how an auction was run and we learned about cooperation."

The girls noted that some classmates, who were unsuccessful in bidding on the items their hearts desired, were disappointed.

"But we also learned not be a bad sport," said Stephanie. "We learned not everybody gets everything they want."

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