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posted: Fri, Apr 29th, 2016

‘G is for Garden State’

Working with Doris Ettlinger, a New Jersey resident and illustrator, fourth-graders at Tinc Road recently created a mural of the State of New Jersey. The mural is a six-foot-tall map labeled with the names of the counties and illustrated with famous landmarks and important geographical features. Interesting elements include horse farms, zinc mines, the state capitol building, and the USS New Jersey battleship. Students created the individual pieces, including self-portraits, and Ms. Ettlinger combined them all into the mural.

Ms. Ettlinger has produced numerous award-winning children’s books, including “G Is For Garden State” which the students read before creating their artwork. She’s been visiting Tinc Road for the past eight or nine year, discussing her work as an artist and helping fourth-graders create New Jersey-themed murals. 

“When the kids look at the final project, they say look at all that's here, look at the state’s diversity in recreation and geography,” said Joy Spevak, fourth grade teacher. 

Creating the mural helps reinforce New Jersey history and geography – a major social studies topic for all state fourth-graders. It’s also the perfect tie-in and segue to an upcoming districtwide fourth grade research project that combines language arts, social studies, and technology. The students will work on the website Glogster.com to design a new state seal that incorporates important New Jersey features that they have researched using books and student-friendly websites.  

This multidisciplinary assignment helps meet the fourth grade technology goal in the Common Core State Standards that states that fourth-graders should be able to use “digital tools to access, manage, evaluate, and synthesize information in order to solve problems individually and collaboratively and to create and communicate knowledge.”

For more information about Doris Ettlinger, visit her website at: 


To learn more about the fourth grade integrated learning project, go to:


Connecting an article to real life

Text recently became real life when a lesson on writing persuasive essays turned into a visit by a puppy that is training to be a seeing eye dog.

A group of Kathy Diefes’ fourth-graders read a piece of non-fiction called “Raising Puppies for Others” in Reading Street Sleuth magazine. The story follows a young golden retriever as he is adopted by a foster puppy trainer who teaches it the skills and commands needed to be a service dog. Each student then wrote an essay on whether he or she thought the job of puppy trainer was more fun or more work, and cited evidence in the text to support the decision.

The assignment was followed by a presentation by real-life trainer Kathy Olup who brought Zofie, the dog now under her care. Ms. Olup works with the Seeing Eye, a non-profit organization in Morristown that trains seeing eye dogs for the blind. In her presentation, Ms. Olup discussed the responsibilities of a puppy raiser and the ways that raising a seeing eye dog differs from raising a dog as a pet. Students were surprised to learn that Zofie isn’t allowed treats, can't interact with other dogs at dog parks, must attend class every week, and can’t be left unattended for more than two hours. 

"The visit made a text-to-world connection and raised the students’ interest level about the writing assignment,” said. Ms. Diefes. “In addition, it allowed us to discuss the difference between ‘thick’ and ‘thin’ questions and come up with ones that would yield the most insightful answers.”

Ms. Olup is also the president of the Flanders PTA at Mountain View.

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Tinc Road School
24 Tinc Road Flanders, NJ 07836
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