Nov. 25, 2014. Can the same book be used to teach 800 students from pre-kindergarten through eighth grade? The skilled and creative teachers at Hardin Park School answered that question with a resounding “yes” this month through a wide range of lessons and activities inspired by a book called The Day the Crayons Quit.
The Day the Crayons Quit is a “guidance themed” picture book, meaning it carries a message that helps develop good character and encourages positive attitudes and behaviors. The principal message of this book is about the value of accepting and appreciating differences between people.
The suggestion for everyone in school to read the same book came from Hardin Park Media Specialists Amy Hiatt and Candice Trexler. They first heard about the idea at the NC School Library Media Conference last month and shared it with Principal Mary Smalling and the school faculty on their return. Their proposal to try it at Hardin Park in connection with Picture Book Month in November won approval and copies of the book were purchased for homeroom teachers in pre-kindergarten through fifth grade and for middle school language arts teachers. “From there, the project took off beyond our wildest dreams,” said Trexler.
Although the culminating events of the project on Monday and Tuesday were described as a school wide read aloud, there was far more taking place around the school than traditional reading sessions with younger students. Teachers found inventive, age-appropriate ways to apply the book in all grades and various subjects. Students of sixth grade math teacher Jessica Smith drew line plots indicating the distribution of favorite colors in class and calculated ratios based on the plots. Students in Barbara Myers’ third grade class used the book in language arts instruction and learned about the history of the company that makes Crayola crayons, including the facts that schoolteacher Alice Binney helped put crayons into classrooms in 1903 and that Crayola made their 100 billionth crayon in 1996 and cranks out about 13.5 million crayons every day. Lessons that involved reading skills and vocabulary, writing, history, and math were just a few of the ways the book was used to create instruction that worked on different levels for different classes. As a finishing touch, Hiatt and Trexler created a bulletin board in the school cafeteria that will soon display crayon-shaped cutouts with the name of each student at Hardin Park.
Participation in the project wasn’t limited to teachers and students. Custodians and office personnel contributed their work to the mix, and family involvement was encouraged as well. A meeting with parents was offered to help them support their child’s participation and to encourage reading and talking about the book at home.
“We want to thank everyone at the school and our school families for the amazing way in which they took this project and ran with it,” said Trexler. “It’s a real tribute to their commitment to our students and to Hardin Park as a true learning community.”
“This is a wonderful example of the creative and participatory learning we love to see in our schools,” said Superintendent Dr. Scott Elliott. “It engages students, it involves parents, and it energizes our teachers and school staff in ways that bring out the best in all of us. Especially now, as we approach Thanksgiving, it’s also a reminder of how grateful we should be for the remarkable teachers and other school personnel that help make this school system so effective for our students.”
Hardin Park School is the largest of the eight K-8 schools in the Watauga County Schools system, with a total enrollment of 803 students. Its students exceeded state averages for student proficiency and state targets for academic growth for 2013-14. Hardin Park Principal Mary Smalling is the Watauga County Schools Principal of the Year for 2014-15.