North elementary teachers are thinking up creative ways to educate their students.
Sara Pennington teaches a fourth to fifth grade loop class at North Elementary School. She makes it a point to teach her students that school isn’t their only audience or the only place where their voices matter. She encourages that lesson through projects that allow the students to interact with people outside of the other students and teachers they see daily. It gives them the freedom to take more control over what and how they learn, becoming more invested in their own educational journeys. “You can’t teach without the students buying in,” she says.
In their most recent project, Pennington came together with fellow fourth and fifth grade teachers to support their students in folding colorful paper into small origami butterflies while learning about Japanese culture. These lessons were taught in weekly sessions by artist Hiromi Katayama from the Rural Arts Collaborative, a connection made possible by the Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation. Students were able to interact with the project in any way they wanted—while some students enjoyed the process of folding the paper, others preferred working with the pliers, line, and weights that would allow the origami butterflies to hang in the air. There was something for everyone.
Images courtesy of Sarah Pennington
The students are enjoying seeing their most recent artistic creation fly at the West Virginia Botanic Garden, displayed proudly in the Education and Event Center. “Your fine motor skills have to be on point for origami, and for younger kids, that can be difficult,” Pennington says. “It was so hard and time consuming, and there was frustration. To see the end piece was nice for everyone.” Projects such as these encourage students to come to school each day eager to find out what they’ll be doing next, she says, even if it is something outside their normal routine.
Pennington already has plans for a new project in the next school year. The fourth and fifth grade students at North Elementary will come together again to write and produce their own midnight radio show with the help of local playwrights and a sound production team. “We always say yes to things,” she says with a laugh. “The kids are really looking forward to it.”
The students will get started on their new project this fall, so join me in keeping an eager eye (or ear) out for that. In the meantime, be sure to support North Elementary’s young artists and visit the West Virginia Botanic Garden to see their work on display.