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All aboard!: Elementary schoolers bring Titanic history to life

Students in Kathryn Mavity's class Brooks Stowe, Bjorn Pederson, Estin Martin, Benjamen Sechrist and Reygan Strommen present their Titanic project to parents and community members, Tuesday. (Kayla Henson / The Dickinson Press)1 / 5
Fourth-grade student Bjorn Pederson made a model of the Titanic for display in his classroom. (Submitted photo)2 / 5
Kathryn Mavity, Robbie Duttenhefer and their Walk to Read students after Lunch and Learn Tuesday. (Submitted photo)3 / 5
Fourth-grade Jefferson Elementary students Jimena Moreno, Ava Hauck, Olivia Easum, Cooper Gale and Emerson Simnioniw present their Titanic project to parents and community members Tuesday. (Kayla Henson / The Dickinson Press) 4 / 5
Students Reygan Strommen and Bjorn Pederson serve parents lunch in the Titanic-decorated classroom after presenting their nonfiction research project. (Kayla Henson / The Dickinson Press) 5 / 5

Did you know that the fourth smokestack on the Titanic was just for decoration? Kathryn Mavity's fourth-grade students at Jefferson Elementary School do. The kids dressed up in suits and dresses to present their group projects on the Titanic to family and community members in the classroom they decorated in the same theme.

Afterward, they served the crowd lunch.

"This is something they will remember their whole lives," said Robbie Duttenhefer, a paraeducator and retired English teacher who works with Mavity. She said this is the most fun project she's worked on in years.

Tuesday's fun was a culmination of nearly two months' worth of work. The first month was spent researching and creating the projects, each of which were to include a computer image, three important facts, five defined vocabulary words, fun and weird facts, a chart or graph, three unanswered questions and a sketch. The last week and a half was spent practicing and rehearsing for their presentations.

Mavity's students are above-grade-level readers.

"I have students who are performing at fifth-, sixth-grade level, and that's what allows me to push them to the point of, like I said most of what you'll need to say today, you'll need to memorize, so that you're not continually looking back at your poster," she said.

In choosing a project, she and Duttenhefer looked for a topic that they felt students would be interested in that was in-depth enough to span the two months dedicated to nonfiction and that offered a variety of modalities for learning, Mavity said.

Ava Hauck's mom, Gage Hauck, came to watch the presentations.

"She was very excited," Hauck said of her daughter. "She said this was the most important part of the year, like this was the big day that we had to be here so early to make sure we got a seat. ... It was fabulous. All the kids did an amazing job on their speech, presentation. The time that they put in and the research ... it was awesome."

Student Jenna Zubke enjoyed the project, too.

"I thought the project was a really fun idea," she said. "It showed a lot of how we can do our teamwork. A lot of people do projects, but they don't get to do something that's fun like this."

Classmate Olivia Easum said she didn't know much about the Titanic prior to the project.

"Now that we've researched on it, I think I know lots about it, and I will be able to tell people facts," she said.

Student Reygan Strommen thought the project and its presentation were a success.

"I think it went well for all of the groups," she said. "I think we had a lot of creativity in the posters that we put our time into. I think everybody enjoyed their time, watching us. I think everybody who tried to do it did a good job presenting and speaking."

Mavity's class was one of three classes that participated in Lunch and Learn on Tuesday. Each fourth-grade class, which is composed of students in the same reading band, had its own theme. The theme of the project for Sara Rick's class of emerging readers was "Snow is falling, books are calling," and the theme of the project for Tamara Cottom's on-grade-level class was "Winter Wonderland."

Lunch and Learn, which the school plans to make an annual event, shares students' work with their families and community members.