Fitting Finales

Girl selling at Market Day

“We really try to hammer down on the curriculum over the first three quarters of the year, and the fun (at the end) caters to expanding the learning they had throughout the year,” Principal Will Machallister said.

Like the other schools, BIS did hold a recognition event to celebrate the performance and growth of students over the course of the year, but the End-of-the-Year Wolverine Assembly held on May 7 was only the beginning of a busy schedule of events and field trips that took place in May.

“Those things are an extension of what they’ve been learning in the previous weeks,” Machallister explained. “It is not brand new. It is all building on itself, and those are culminating events or projects to build on what has been learned in the classroom,”

The in-depth, hands-on learning experiences also kicked off on May 7, when the 5th-grade students delivered their end-of-year project presentations. Family and community members were invited to the annual BIS Wax Museum to discover the historical figures the students spent considerable time researching in preparation for the event.

Crowd gathers for the Wax Museum

“That is their big research project. They do little ones throughout the year, but they all lead up to this big one,” Machallister said.

The historical figure must have contributed in some way to U.S. history, and each student delivered a five-paragraph speech they had written and committed to memory for the occasion.

“They come dressed up as that historic figure. We have a pretty extensive costume closet, but parents also help out,” Machallister described. “They do a lot of practicing, and give their speech from a first person perspective.”

Presentations were unveiled in a morning session and afternoon session, and all five 5th-grade classrooms participated. Those who came to view the presentations pushed a button or pulled a lever to animate the “wax figures,” and students then delivered their brief speech, highlighting the career of their chosen historic figure and what made that person famous, but also providing little-known tidbits of information gleaned from their research.

“They bring in those types of facts that you wouldn’t typically know about those historical figures,” Machallister smiled.

Bucket Brigade

The following week the 5th graders participated in another expanded learning opportunity when they joined 5th graders from other San Juan Basin schools at the 26th Annual Children’s Water Festival put on at Fort Lewis College by the Southwestern Water Conservation District.

“It’s a science conference that focuses on water in our world. The presentations are designed to give students an opportunity to learn about the many different roles water plays in their individual lives, their community, and the world in which they live, and features exhibits and many hands-on presentations highlighting a variety of water-related topics. The goal is to provide a better understanding of water resources and the value and importance of water,” the event website proclaims.

The Water Festival is part of Colorado’s Water Information Program, and that organization works closely with school districts to match the experience with the water curriculum used throughout the school year.

Playing with a beach ball

“It hits our science standards pretty heavily. It is naturally aligned, and we’re always looking to expand our options to kids and get them out into nature where they can be themselves and be kids,” Machallister said. “It also lets the teachers see them in the alternate environment.”

Students learn about water-related career opportunities, water rights, water in the human body, water conservation, water pollution, water safety, water species, water treatment, and more in a series of presentations geared to the 5th-grade level so students can better retain the information.

The festival also gave students a chance to visit a college, and students got to walk on the Fort Lewis College campus as well as experience what it is like to sit in a college classroom setting. The day culminated with a chance for students to be quizzed by a “Water Wizard” on what they had learned that day — and throughout the year — and Machallister said some of the students took advantage of getting the questions early to really study and perform well in the challenge.

Students look in a water tank

The following week the 4th-graders had their moment in the spotlight when students invited family and friends to visit their school and experience the state’s most unique features for the annual Colorado Day exposition on May 20.

“Some of them pick ghost towns, some pick ski resorts, and others choose important people,” Machallister stated. “They do in-depth research on that topic, write a paper, and then give their demonstration on Colorado Day.”

In addition to their classroom studies, the 4th-graders had also prepared for their big day by taking a number of field trips to Chimney Rock and other points of interest in southwest Colorado.

“There are lots of prehistoric sites they go to,” Machallister said.

Attendees of Colorado Day were able to browse through the various classrooms and listen to presentations throughout the day to kick off the final week of the school year, and they seemed impressed by the research the students had done into the important places, people and events in Colorado history.

“We had lots of family and friends in the building. That was one of our more popular Colorado Days, and the amount of people that showed up was great,” Machallister beamed.

Table of boys at Market Day

The following day the 3rd-graders got into the year-end action when they unveiled their “Mini-Society” and invited community members to the BIS Commons for their annual Market Day event on May 21. 

“The mini-society is their fourth quarter project, and as part of that they talk about classroom roles and how they vote on things,” Machallister said, noting that the activity culminates on Market Day.

“That’s where they come up with some product on their own that solves a problem they have,” Machallister revealed.

Those quality goods are then created at home by the students and offered for sale from 9 a.m. to 10 a.m. on Market Day, but the real fun went into spending the week making the items and producing the advertisements for the products that were sold. 

Student displays his product at Market Day

Students were challenged to spend no more than $15 on materials and produce a quantity of at least 20 items of the product they chose to make. They were also encouraged to use recycled materials.

“They had to buy their space in the cafeteria, whether they are renting a table or a floor space or a wall space. If they wanted a good spot, they had to pay more,” Machallister said. “Each class creates their own monetary system during their mini-society, and they typically get 50-75 bucks to spend at the different markets where kids are able to go and buy from other kids too.”

The principal said the event draws a big crowd that includes parents and the other grade levels in the school as well.

“They get that school-wide culture coming together, and the young kids always like to see the old kids,” Machallister said.

Girls at a table at Market Day

He admitted that a lot of work goes into the events and trips, but said it is easy as a principal for him to grant approval for the endeavors because the school’s teachers make sure it all correlates back to what has been taught in the classroom — and also makes it more meaningful to kids.

“It is good for the teachers to be able to see the kids in multiple perspectives,” Machallister reasoned.