This fall, second-graders in Allison Mitchell’s class at Phenicia Elementary School participated in a social studies inquiry about the communities they live in, exploring the very idea of “community” itself. Appropriately enough, they started with their own neighborhoods.
Students first examined a map of the hamlet of Phenicia. Using Google Earth, they first looked at Phenicia, then at other places around the country, and then at other places around the world. They thought critically about the various characteristics that make Phenicia different from other types of places, and applied their skills in geography to determine whether each location was urban, suburban, or rural.
During a walking field trip on Tuesday, Oct. 24, the students enjoyed an informative stroll into downtown Phenicia, where they were able to meet and greet
interview several different types of community members and develop questions about the area. “This is the best way to really get an idea of our community,” Mitchell said in a press release. “The people in a community are what makes it work, and meeting and talking with them is to understand that.” It was the perfect time to explore Phenicia since it was decked out for Halloween, and according to Mitchell, “The scarecrows were a big hit!”
The first stop was the Phenicia Post Office. Students had already harkened back to the older days of “snail mail” by writing a letter to either a friend or family member from locations as close as Phenicia, as far away in California and Oklahoma, and even as far away as Scotland.
“It was fun putting the letter in the slot at the post office,” Bryce Rabuffo said in the release. “But I think I may have pushed the letter too hard.”
While speaking with the postal director, students learned about how postal workers sort mail and what a post office does. This includes sorting all the mail
that comes in and delivers it to either a residence or post office box. They
I also asked about some of the weirdest, biggest, and smallest packages that the postal workers have ever encountered and were surprised to learn the
answer — the largest package ever was a prosthetic leg, and the smallest was a potato.
The community-explorers left the post office with a special coloring book and headed to their next destination, Ulster Savings Bank. Here, the students learned some very exciting and adultlike skills. From the manager of the Phenicia branch of Ulster Savings Bank, Samantha Awand-Gortel, they learned about what it means to deposit and withdraw money, and even did some “money math” while they were there. As a bonus, students also got to take a peek into the money vault, and were given a bag filled with pens, flashlights, coin purses, and other fun things to take home.
“I learned that there is a hundred dollar bill,” student Vivian Swineheart said of the experience. Will Lynch added, “I liked the bank best because it was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. You don’t get to see inside a vault very often!”
The final stop was the Phenicia Library, where Director Liz Potter entertained students with some fun reading-alouds of books with some very interesting characters: “The New LiBEARian” by Alison Donald and “The Library Mouse” by Daniel Kirk. Afterward, the excited youngsters visited the Children’s Section, where they played “I-Spy” and learned more about the books in this area. In addition, they visited the upstairs room that features local fly-fishing maps, artifacts, and gear.
Again, the community explorers left with plenty of swag—this time getting bags filled with books, a small, stuffed reading buddy, and other fun items.
“They were so excited to get books that, as soon as we returned to the
classroom, they sat right down and began reading them,” Mitchell said. “And some were writing stories to send to the library. All on their own.”