Fifth grade students dabble in new skills 2013.03.06

Written by David Green.

By DAVID GREEN

What can you do with a floor jack, a lug wrench, a 10-pound sledge and a can of WD-40? Change tires, of course, and that's what Dominique Double learned to do last month.

dabble fair"How to Change a Tire" was her entry in the second annual fifth grade Dabble Fair at Morenci Middle School.

The Dabble Fair, organized by teacher Melissa Elliott, encourages students to think about something they would like to learn, then find a family member to teach them how to do it. It's not necessary to become proficient in the new skill; it's just something to dabble in.

Dominique thinks she became fairly adept with her new knowledge. At least she hasn't heard any complaints from her grandmother. It was her car that she and Papa Derby practiced on. Papa showed her how to do it and Dominique went to work.

"It was hard at first," she said, "but I'm guessing that people get the hang of it."

The only downside is that when she's riding in a car and it gets a flat, everyone else will probably look to her for help.

And by the way, she added, "Lefty loosey, righty tighty."

For Walker Whitehouse, the project became "How to Paint a Room." It was his bedroom walls that needed work.

"I've had the same colored walls forever," he said. 

He had never taken on a painting project before, but now he knows how it's done.

Another student inquired about some color designs showing on the wall in a photograph, a couple of feet ahead of the paint roller. It's nothing; he's just covering up some remnants of his earlier childhood.

"I like to drive things," said Azaan Jarrell, "and my grandma and grandpa had a golf cart. I thought it was a great opportunity to learn how to drive it."

With his project, "How to Drive a Golf Cart," he got behind the wheel for the first time.

Alexis Harvey tackled a difficult job with her mother. They sewed a pillow case and called the project "Pillow Party."

"It took a very long time," she said. "I had to iron it a lot and it was very complicated to hide the stitches. I really learned a lot."

That included learning to thread and operate a sewing machine.

Jared Gleckler's mother works in a medical lab in Toledo.

"I'm really interested in the job and that's what I want to do when I grow up," he said. 

His "Medical Technology" display included drawings of blood cells and he was quick to explain the functions of red and white cells. The highlight of his display was a large microscope on loan from the lab where it's used by students from Bowling Green State University.

"If you want, you can look at sickle cell disease in the microscope," he said to visitors.

Larkyn Swimmer was another student who gave sewing a try. She and her mother created a fabric crayon holder that can be rolled and tied. Measure, mark rectangular shapes, cut them, pin them in place, measure again and sew.

This was Larkyn's first experience with a sewing machine

Sophia Whipple boards her horse, Oreo, at Autumn Wind Stables near Adrian and she decided to learn how to connect Oreo to a jog cart and drive it around the facility.

"It was fun," she said.

Haylee Valentine traveled to Metamora to learn about creating vinyl signs.

"My uncle does vinyling and I helped him with a project for one of his clients," she said. "It's kind of hard, but it's easier once you get into it."

Once she had a little experience under her belt, it was fun.

Have you ever knitted before?

"No," Bailey Arno answered.

Was it easy?

"Yeah."

She and her mother knitted a purple hat that fits the family dog.

Emma McVay has a good start on her project to create a pillow using latch hooking.

"It's like knotting stuff," she said.

All told, there were more than 55 projects completed for this year's Dabble Fair. It's part of the fifth grade life-long learning class in which students practice common and not-so-common skills.

In addition to the projects listed above, there was photography and gun safety and cooking venison with noodles. There was changing the oil in a car and welding metal.

One student's project was finished off while his grandfather—and project assistant—was in the hospital. A few parents, Mrs. Elliott said, went out on a limb and didn't act as teachers. They, too, were learning a skill for the first time.

And what about Mrs. Elliott? What did she choose to dabble in this year?

Last year she learned to make a lamp; this year…. This year she was derailed by her husband’s illness, but she did get a new learning project in.

When class members tackled a project called “Design the perfect study space,” she went to work by moving in a table, hanging cork board, and creating a comfortable area for her daughter.

There’s always something new in the life-long learning class.

 Lifelong Learning

Students in the fifth grade life-long learning class at Morenci Middle School learn a variety of skills, in addition to the Dabble Fair project.

This year’s studies included:

• Metacognition: thinking about our own thinking and our own personal learning styles.

• Executive control skills and what they mean when it comes to starting, doing, and finishing work and managing time.

• Poise, posture, articulation, and expressing gratitude (thank you letters). Firm handshakes were practiced and students learned how to set a table.

• Sewing on a button and sewing a small pillow embellished with simple embroidery stitches.

• Cooking breakfast, soup and dinner, and learning the difference between a 1/4 of a cup and  1/4 of a teaspoon when it comes to baking soda.

• Interacting with class peers as they discussed the Search Institute's 40 Developmental Assets for Middle Childhood.

• Doing a load of laundry from start to finish, with grading done by parents.

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