March 3, 2012

Oobleck and Truffula trees

In honor of Dr. Seuss

Jazmine Rios stepped carefully onto the first of several sheets of laminated construction paper and silently contemplated her next move.

The Antioch Elementary School student in Mary McLawhorn’s first grade class was tasked with getting herself and her 17 classmates from one end of their classroom to the other across a make-believe river of boiling hot chocolate. Let any sheet of paper go untouched for a fraction of a second, and they would lose the paper, hindering their ability to get to the other side “alive.”

The hot chocolate game was one of several play and learning activities for students celebrating Dr. Seuss’s birthday. Schools across the country commemorated the day by reading his children’s books filled with rhyming stories of imaginary characters and lessons that teach character traits.

“This has been a fun day for Dr. Seuss,” said Antioch Assistant Principal Todd Gearhardt of the author whose real name was Theodor Seuss Geisel. “We’re proud to be celebrating Dr. Seuss and honoring his legacy.”

Scrambled green eggs were served in the morning as a funsy tribute to his “Green Eggs and Ham.” First-grader Augustus Gordon said it’s one of his favorite Dr. Seuss books, but he couldn’t bring himself to actually try the food.

The school’s roughly 90 first-graders rotated among four classes. In one class, they used cornstarch, water and food coloring to make “oobleck,” a fictional, green, sticky substance that plays a key role in the book “Bartholomew and the Oobleck.” Another teacher held a Dr. Seuss birthday party and read his book “Happy Birthday to You.”

Teacher Jackie Dill had her students build a “Truffula tree” using cupcakes, pretzels and cotton candy and coordinated with the U.S. Forest Service to have them donate loblolly pine saplings to every first-grader.

In keeping with the tree theme, Imperial Landscapes owner Brian Whitmore, who is Dill’s husband’s boss, donated a magnolia tree that was planted in a corner of the school that will become a memorial garden for paraprofessional Kathie Cochran. There are plans to later add shrubs, flowers and seating in the garden.

“A lot of my students had her last year,” Dill said of the well-known kindergarten paraprofessional who died in September. “She had a heart issue. It was very sudden.”

McLawhorn said Cochran worked with her mother before she retired from teaching.

“Kathie was very caring, very loving,” Dill said. “She was the one that when the kindergartners were crying, hers were the arms they wanted wrapped around them.”

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