Sweet experience for pupils

Tradition: Second-graders are encouraged to read while visiting a display of gingerbread houses made by Wilde Lake High students.


December 17, 2003|By Laura Shovan | Laura Shovan,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Wilde Lake High School's gingerbread house display has become a holiday tradition.

Every year, Food and Nutrition classes construct dozens of candy-decorated creations. But this year, teacher Yvonne Lund made the assignment a little sweeter by asking her students to re-create houses from their favorite books.

Then the high school invited children from Bryant Woods Elementary to tour the gingerbread village, which is on display until Tuesday.

"I told [students] that they could do it on any book, but most of them, when they found out the kids would be coming, they did it on kids' books," Lund said.

Last week, Bryant Woods second-graders spent the morning at Wilde Lake High. Not only did they look at the gingerbread houses, but they also heard the books that inspired the creations. The high-schoolers read to their visitors and described how they put the houses together.

"To actually create these types of castles and communities and use them as reading stations" helps the younger children see "their thoughts come into reality," said Wilde Lake Principal Restia Whitaker.

Lund's classes, made up of 140 students in Food and Nutrition and Living on Your Own courses, worked on the houses for about three weeks before putting them on display in the school's guidance office. Most of the houses were constructed by attaching graham crackers to small milk cartons.

Tenth-grader Diego Suarez, 16, designed Squidward's house from the popular cartoon SpongeBob SquarePants.

"I wanted everybody to know whose house it was," he said. Diego brought a SpongeBob book for the kids to look at while they examined his creation, which includes details such as a crushed-cracker base that resembles sand.

Bryant Woods pupil Matthew Miller, 7, said his favorite gingerbread project was the Parisian house from Madeline, which is iced in yellow and decorated with vines of green icing.

"It has a lot of detail. They used a lot of different stuff" to decorate it, Matthew said. A paper cutout of Miss Clavel peeks out one window of Madeline's school, looking for the title character, who is hiding in front of a green-icing bush in the yard.

Yaphey Hart, 16, a Wilde Lake junior, said, "I like the creativity, everything we got to use. ... Like a lollipop would be a [street] light. You've got to look at it in an artistic way, not, `Oh, that's just a piece of candy.' "

Second-graders rotated among tables where two to three houses were displayed. Lund told the youngsters that her students would read some of the books, but "some of them we're not going to tell you the whole story because we want you to look it up," and read the book at school or at home.

Jamie Sharfstein, the second-grade team leader at Bryant Woods, said that when her pupils entered the room "their mouths dropped open. They were just so excited to see" the display.

"It's a good reading enrichment program with the children," Sharfstein said.

Whitaker was inspired to contact Bryant Woods' Principal Jason McCoy about the field trip because of a relationship formed through "Bridges Over Wilde Lake," an initiative to increase academic skills at Wilde Lake's feeder schools.

In addition to encouraging reading, the trip was a way for the elementary pupils to see positive, enjoyable things at the high school.

Lund agreed. "I like the idea, too, that we're clueing kids in to how much fun you can have in high school, instead of it being scary," she said.

Wilde Lake student Lana Matthews said her favorite part of showing her project to the children was "that they actually care. It's just a project to us ... to have the kids come in ... our work actually paid off."

Lund said she liked the way her students reacted to the second-graders. "My students were just so good with them," she said. "You don't always get to see that side of the student ... just watching them reading to the kids was really fun."

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