Guest post by Linette Branham, CEA Educational Issues Specialist
It wasn’t an everyday, ordinary carnival that came to Charter Oak Academy in West Hartford on Saturday, May 2. This one had no live animals, no midway booths and games, no cotton candy, and no dare-devil rides.
What attracted more than 150 children and parents? Teachers, Creatures, Facts, and Fun, designed and sponsored by the CEA Student Program (CEASP), featured 24 booths of activities for students to learn in the areas of math, science, history, geography, reading/ language arts, and health and wellness.
For kindergarten to fifth grade students there was something of interest: “fishing” for letters to spell words; using magnetic words to create poetry; learning how to make healthy snacks; playing games from other countries; learning about the properties of bubbles; or perhaps creating your own family crest.
As students entered the carnival grounds, they received a “passport”, inviting them to participate in a variety of learning activities. Two clowns created balloon animals and balloon hats for students, and a popcorn machine kept everyone munching.
The event brought together CEASP members from Central CT State University, Eastern CT State University, Quinnipiac, Southern CT State University, Western CT State University, and the University of CT. Students moved from booth to booth and CEASP members varied the level of activities so any student could participate, instructed students about the activities, played with students, and welcomed parents to join them.
Students earned stickers by participating in booth activities, which they put on their “passports”. When students had earned a number of stickers from participating in booth activities, they could choose an educational game to take home; most booths also gave students take-home activities to continue their learning.
Parents appeared to enjoy themselves just as much as their children did. When they arrived at the carnival, parents received a reusable grocery bag containing an I Spy book for their child and instructions on how to conduct each booth activity at home. Many participated in the booth activities with their children.
“The activities the students prepared were well-designed to match standards in the different subject areas, and to offer a range of challenges for learners of differing ages and abilities. The university students were warm and encouraging to all students and families, and seemed to completely enjoy the experience themselves. I had one parent comment that the way in which the CEASP members were interacting with our children demonstrated their potential to become great teachers,” said Kate Jerram, a curriculum specialist at Charter Oak Academy.
“The care and effort that went into planning, organizing, executing, and breaking down this event was incredible. It is a model we will look to replicate in the future.”
This program was the result of students from the CEASP’s six university chapters working together. Planning began in January, and students spent the next three months applying for grant funding from the NEA Student Program, soliciting donations of materials, conducting fund-raisers to purchase materials, and creating materials on their own. CEA Retired supported the program with the donation of I Spy books for every family.
Members agreed that, while the planning was extensive and time-consuming, putting their efforts into the planning process resulted in a program that was well coordinated, engaging for all ages, and run smoothly—just like the classrooms CEASP members hope to teach in some day.