SHOW & TELL: Thunderbolt students share their lessons with parents

December 15, 2018

Parents, teachers and students gathered Thursday evening at Thunderbolt Middle School to share an up-close look at what’s been going on in the social studies and science classrooms.

Parents Night was a grand opportunity for everyone to find out more about one another’s ancestors, to serve up interesting facts about World War II and witness a few science and chemistry experiments.

Normally dark and quiet at night, Lake Havasu City’s middle school was a well-lit beehive of activity Thursday evening as hundreds of parents, students and faculty gathered to celebrate the magic that happens when teacher, subject matter and learner connect.

The assignment: Research an

ancestor and tell their story.

Melissa Cibik teaches seventh grade social studies. Nearly 200 of her students participated in an ancestry project. The families represented were traced back as early as the 1400s and included some ancestors who are still living.

For Parents Night, the students stepped into the world of performance art by creating a “living wax museum” in the school’s gymnasium. Costumed as their ancestors, students each wore a “button” – a sticker – on their shoulder. When a guest pushed the button, the student would “unfreeze” and share a first-person narrative about their ancestor. Students also had to create a tri-fold profile display board illustrating their ancestor’s life.

“This is the first time we’ve done this on a scale this big,” explained Cibick. She noted that she joined in the fun with her students by dressing as her fifth great-grandfather. He was in the militia during the Revolutionary War.

The assignment: research a selected World War II battle or Nazi concentration camp and produce an informational poster.

Ben Charetter is one of four eighth grade social studies teachers at the middle school. As he guided his 110 students through American history and World War II, he had to keep the atrocities of that time at age-appropriate levels. In particular, student teams that chose to research Nazi concentration camps were limited to hand-picked websites for gathering information.

“I had to censor what they could look at online. Some of it is just too gruesome. Most kids have heard of the Holocaust, but it was surprising what they didn’t know. Later, it was impressive what they retained,” Charetter said. He noted that the students’ most frequent question was “Why did this happen?”

Simultaneously, some eighth grade English students read “Night” by Elie Weisel. The non-fiction account of Weisel’s time in Buchenwald concentration camp sat at the top of The New York Times bestseller list for months.

The assignment: Chemistry experiments.

Rebekah King has taught science to eighth graders at Thunderbolt for 17 years. Lately, the internet presents an increasing challenge in terms of keeping students interested in the subject. Students’ previews outside of class can steal the thunder of what they would otherwise discover for themselves in the school’s science lab.

“They see a lot of experiments on You Tube, but we still manage to wow them,” King said.

At Thursday’s event, three demonstrations involved dry ice, glass beakers and other science lab “magic” that the students are studying.

“This year, we’re learning about the different states of matter – solid, liquid and gas. And when we talk about acids and bases, we use common household items for our pH tests. For example, most people don’t know that milk is an acid,” King said.

One of her daily goals is to open students’ eyes to the wonders of science and how it can improve lives.

“I want them to enjoy science, to see it as an interesting subject,” she said.

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