Heads bent, scissors snapping, glue sticks dipping, and a song on their lips, the students in Kari McCleskey’s second and third grade combo classroom busily cut up the Payson Roundup newspaper.
Shyly, Trevor Johns looks up and beckons.
“Did you go to the awards banquet?” he asks the reporter.
She kneels to be at his level and replies, “Yes, why?”
Trevor drops his head so he can see to reach in his pocket. Carefully he pulls out a folded up paper he’s cut out from the Roundup.
“My grandma won a first place,” he said as he pointed to a picture of Lisa Taylor who won a Best of Rim Country award for her work at Taylor Accounting.
“Did you see her?” he asks.
“Yes. I saw all the winners,” she replies.
He beams with pride as he again carefully folds the paper and returns it to his pocket.
Many of the children in this Tonto Basin elementary school classroom, see their relatives amongst the pages of the paper on a regular basis. Their teacher, McCleskey, uses the paper to teach math, science, social studies, vocabulary and art. She even uses the Opinion page to demonstrate the difference between fact and opinion.
“Our principal, Ms. Weatherly, came in and talked to the kids today, telling them they don’t learn everything in books,” said McCleskey.
Each Tuesday and Wednesday, the circulation staff at the Roundup drops off papers to Rim Country schools. McCleskey saw a chance to use them as props for class.
“I use it for spelling words and it’s great for science,” she said, “they learn about ecosystems and wildfires.”
On her way into school on this day, McCleskey made up a math project using the papers. She gave each child a manila, legal-sized folder and had them cut out pictures from the grocery ads of foods used for breakfast, lunch, dinner and desserts. Each child then created a menu for their own restaurant to use in understanding taking orders and making change.
“A lot of kids had no idea what goes on a menu — parents must order for them,” she said.
McKayla Taylor’s restaurant, the Little Johnnie, listed desserts first on its menu: ice cream and cake. Breakfast listed eggs, bacon, toast, Life, Special K, and Mini-wheat cereals. On the lunch menu: ribs, tuna and chips. The drinks section had Pepsi, Mountain Dew, milk and Snapple. She even had a special chocolate section with M&M’s and chocolate milk.
McKayla’s partner, Ashton Morris, took her order totaling up each item and/or the number of items. McKayla then paid Ashton. When it came time to give her change, Ashton had to accurately count back what he owed McKayla.
“In third grade, the AIMS test has money questions,” said McCleskey explaining the value of the lesson.
As a final project for the day, McCleskey had the children create a collage. Most had never heard of the word.
“I’d like you to make a collage of things you like to do,” said McCleskey. “You can use words or pictures.”
The children stared perplexedly at the papers in front of them for a moment, and then they dug into the project. McCleskey does not like to give them too much of an explanation, she wants them to catch on themselves. Soon exclamations of joy punctuated the classroom.
“I love sports! Here’s a sports picture.”
“I’m an outdoors kind of guy.”
“That’s my cousin. She’s playing basketball. I have to cut that out.”
Trevor decided to turn to the Humane Society page to cut out all the pictures of the dogs. Next to his picture he slowly wrote, with the help from his teacher, the only reason why I like dogs is because they are soft and that they are big.
“OK, time to wrap up the project,” said McCleskey, “Take all the extra newspapers to recycling and clean up your desks.”
The children finish the clean up quickly. McCleskey closes the day asking them what they learned from the day.
“We don’t always have to learn something out of a book,” said Kourtney Rose.
“We can pretend we are in a restaurant,” said Trevor.
“That you can add the food up,” said Erma Newell.
“I learned we could learn things about ourselves in a newspaper,” said Autumn Cline.
McCleskey smiled — she had done her job.