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posted: Tue, Jan 10th, 2017

Taking a trip back to the past

Imagine a time:

 - without Wi-Fi and cell phones

- when almost all television shows aired in black and white

- when very few people had even heard of a microwave oven much less had one

Rebecca Hopler's fourth grade class imagined – and liked it!

Rebecca Hopler shared with her class this '50s-era McDonald's menu and discussed the history of the franchise and the birth of fast food

The students recently learned about the history and culture of the 1950s. After Mrs. Hopler presented an overview that touched on everything from "I Love Lucy" to the widespread use of car seatbelts, the students worked in small groups to research various subtopics. These included civil rights, music, cost of living, and inventions and modernizations. (Matthew Eannone brought in a '50s era rotary phone to show his classmates.) The teams compiled their information and completed PowerPoint presentations which they shared with the entire class.

Next, the students were asked to reflect on which era they thought was better to live in and wrote short essays supporting their preferences. Surprisingly, the majority of students selected the 1950s.

"The students that preferred the 1950s believe that technology today is taking away from family time, outdoors, and creativity," Mrs. Hopler said. "They also thought the 1950s gave more of an opportunity for kids to be kids."

In addition to the closer family life and simpler lifestyle, students mentioned the happier music, growing economy, and lower cost of living. 

"The houses back then had a decent amount of space, but were not that much money," wrote Alan Qu. "Four years of college was only $2,500. Now it costs over $150,000."

Those students that thought that life is better today cited improved technology, civil rights, and the educational system as the primary reasons. 

As a culmination to the unit, the class divided into two teams to debate the merits of each decade. Team captains made opening arguments, then each person on a team argued specific points or made rebuttals, often pulling in information from their own personal experiences. The debate was so successful and spirited, Mrs. Hopler extended the length of time devoted to it. 

"This unit and the debate that followed just sparked something inside them," she said. "They used their knowledge and made inferences and conclusions in their debates that really showed how much they learned and how deep they were thinking about the comparison of the eras." 

The district's fourth grade social studies curriculum was recently rewritten. Units are now divided into decades. The 1950s unit lasted approximately three weeks.

The true spirit of the season

First-graders in Dana Zagame's class know that the holiday season is all about the joy of giving. The students created holiday cards and wrapped donated books to give to Project KIND, a Rockaway-based organization that provides food, clothing, and other necessities to people in need. Mrs. Zagame made the activity the focal point of a holiday giving party. Students donned elven hats and took on the roles of kindness elves as they went about their craft work.

"As a teacher, I think it's essential to demonstrate the importance of giving during the holiday season," Mrs. Zagame said. "Many families are not fortunate enough to have what most of us in Mount Olive have. We wanted the students to know that the holidays are not all about what they get, but how they can help others."

Nothing brings home the power of giving more than seeing the faces of those you help. The first-graders witnessed it themselves through videos posted on the Project KIND Facebook page that showed volunteers handing out the donated cards and books. 

"The kids loved actually seeing their cards and books being delivered to people," said Mrs. Zagame. "It really showed that they made a difference."

 The Project KIND activity was the idea of room parent Heather Schroeder. A physical therapist who works with students in the Newark Public School System, Ms. Schroeder learned about the organization from a colleague. She did further research and contacted the founder of Project KIND before bringing the idea to Mrs. Zagame.

Ms. Schroeder also bought the card stock, stickers, and glitter for the students' cards and personally delivered all the donated items to Project KIND.

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Tinc Road School
24 Tinc Road Flanders, NJ 07836
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