Chestnut Ridge celebrates America’s national parks

Chestnut Ridge celebrates America’s national parks
Dave Mast

Chestnut Ridge School students Elias Shetler, left, and Jenna Miller read in the makeshift camper set up in the school lobby for Right to Read Week. The school chose to explore the nation with national parks as its theme this year.


It is approximately 1,977 miles from the Grand Canyon to the Florida Everglades. From Acadia National Park in Maine to Yellowstone Park in Wyoming is 2,065 miles.

It would take a person months to visit the many national parks that dot North America’s landscape.

Yet the students at Chestnut Ridge School did it in one week, thanks to Right to Read Week.

With each classroom picking a North American national park, they all decorated their classrooms and learned about each park as part of their reading week.

Down the north hall of the school, fourth-grade teacher Suzie Mick had students erect three large tents in the middle of the room. In addition several wild animal pelts and a large stuffed black bear guarded a wall where the students had helped create a mountain range.

She said the opportunity to go outside of the normal teaching mode and step into some new educational opportunities was fun, despite it being a lot of work.

“The students get to sit in a tent and read instead of working at a desk,” Mick said. “It’s a different environment that can put some pizzazz into the classroom at a time of the year when the year can get a little slow. This is also something different for the teachers, but it does create a lot of work too. But the rewards are great.”

To help through the work process, Mick had parents volunteer to help her. They provided tents and hides, helped paint the mountains, and other things.

In other rooms the Florida Everglades, the Rocky Mountains, the Grand Canyon, Acadia National Park, Arches National Park and other national treasures were located throughout the school, where each classroom had their own themed national park.

Secretary Darlene Yoder said the students and the entire staff really got behind the week, a period in which they set a goal of reading 60,000 minutes as a student body. Whether in their respective classrooms or in the makeshift camper that was set up in the school lobby, the students were reading books all week. In addition each class got to come to the office to spin a wheel and win some prizes.

Throughout the week they had special guest speakers come in and give presentations to the student body that related to the great outdoors.

Author and adventurer Paul Stutzman came in to talk about his journeys through America. Bill Roloff, a member of Norma Johnson Center, came in to talk about what they do and the many things they offer. He gave a slideshow presentation. John Lorson of Holmes Soil & Water Conservation District also paid a visit and spoke about some of the naturalist projects they do. In addition they had a scavenger hunt and some other activities. After they met their goal, the entire school was invited to have a soda float of their own making in celebration of meeting the reading goal.

The school also did something new this year, creating teams with students from each classroom. The student groups would then go around the school, visit each classroom and the homeroom students would talk about their national park.

“The idea was to have about three kindergartners, three first-graders, three second-graders and three fourth-graders in a group on Wednesday so they could interact and go through the school to learn about different areas,” Yoder said. “On Thursday the students would stay with their own classrooms and go to the other older grades. That way they get a chance to hear about each of the different parks.”

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