Sleepy Hollow Elementary Teachers Bring Geography Lessons to Life

Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL), May 22, 2006 | Go to article overview

Sleepy Hollow Elementary Teachers Bring Geography Lessons to Life


Byline: Barbara Ferguson

I've read about a tree growing in Brooklyn, and know that South Africa's Kalahari Desert has made an appearance in the Wisconsin Dells. But I was unaware that a tropical rain forest from the Amazon was blooming in Sleepy Hollow Elementary School until a phone call from school secretary, Amy Muscat.

Intrigued by her words, I decided to pay the school a visit and check it out for myself.

Most of us remember geography class as a rather dry subject where we would memorize the capitals of the states and color in maps of Europe but for the second-grade classes of Darlene Motl, Sarah Richardson, Kathryn Ley, Sandy Richardson and Linda Swanson it is tangible and vital - something they will never forget.

Sleepy Hollow is a circular-shaped school. The classrooms are located on the outer wall of the building and are connected by an inner windowless corridor. It was in this dark space that the rainforest began to grow. Brown craft paper taped to the walls started the transformation process.

"As part of their weekly homework, the youngsters use computers and books to research the plants and animals that live in the jungle and then they have a week to complete their projects," Darlene Motl said.

Trees with their roots and branches were painted and the four levels of the rainforest were marked off. A paper version of the Amazon flowed along the edge of the wall and a multitude of long green vines hung from the corridor ceiling creating a canopy overhead that dangled down so that it brushed the heads of those brave souls who passed beneath. I say "brave" because the second- graders knew that more than plants lived in the rain forest. There were also animals - some friendly and some ferocious.

Each youngster had picked a favorite rain forest creature to learn about. They then had to create a life-sized two- or three- dimensional version of that animal to dwell there. Notice I said "life-sized." This was not your usual type of report where you find a picture of an anaconda or jaguar and glue it on your paper. One second-grade boy described what they did by saying, "We created life with paper and clay."

So now travelers through Sleepy Hollow rain forest had to watch out for giant anteaters, tapirs and alligators that lurked underfoot.

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