Sippican School students travel across the U.S. with reading challenge

Mar 16, 2013

Sippican School students recently completed a trip that took them across the country – from New England to the deep South to the West Coast. And, they never left the school.

The “trip” came as a challenge from school librarian Jessica Barrett who had the students keep track of their time reading outside of school. For every 30 minutes spent reading, the students would “travel” five miles. They kept their feet firmly in town, but took the opportunity to research all 50 states and present their findings to their classmates.

For her part, Barrett monitored their progress with a map in the library. The students also got to take home a map to track their travels.

Overall, Barrett said the students accumulated 19,000 miles, 2,000 more than she had expected.

“It’s really exciting to see the kids get into it,” Barrett said. “They were really invested in what they were doing.”

Additionally, students would take part in the morning announcements to share little known facts about the states that ranged from sports trivia to famous foods and notable residents.

“It allowed the kids to showcase their research. It encourages fluency and research skills,” Barrett said.

Fourth grader Alexandria Strand did her research on Maine.

“I found a lot of cool animals in Maine. There are a lot of deer, moose, bear, and more. Also, 99 percent of blueberries in the U.S. are from Maine,” Strand said.

Of the challenge, Strand said, “It was really fun. I like reading, but it makes it more fun.”

Stephen Arne and Elijah Richards teamed up to research Ohio. The duo discovered that the state’s official animal is the white-tailed deer and that director Steven Spielberg was born in the state.

Arne and Richards said that they challenged themselves to read more than they already did, which is a lot.

“I read to my little brother. He’s only one-and-a-half years old and can’t talk, but I liked reading to him,” Arne said.

“I read to my family too,” Richards said.

Richards added that he spent a good deal of time reading once the power went out during last month’s storm.

During the month-long challenge, the most common greeting Barrett said that she heard was “Are we there yet?”

This winter’s reading challenge was just one of several for the school. Previously, the challenges included trips around the world, to South America, and to Africa.

Next winter, Barrett said she is planning a return trip to Africa with another reading challenge.