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School-to-schools broadcasts engage actors, youngsters

Three Madison teachers arranged for drama students to broadcast their portrayals of historical figures to two elementary schools.

Logan Stenberg as The Cat in the Hat read from "Oh, the Places You'll Go!"

Courtney Hooper’s drama students at Liberty Middle School are acting via video broadcasting for Leah Igo’s classroom at Mill Creek Elementary School and Renee Graham’s classroom at Columbia Elementary School. (Graham is Igo’s mother.)

Hooper didn’t need convincing. “I’m always looking for fun new activities. I knew my kids would be excited about working with younger kids and using technology.”

“Our second-grade students are mesmerized,” Graham said. “Courtney’s students are thoroughly enjoying themselves and are brushing up on their history at the same time they are practicing their drama skills.”

At Columbia, students gather at their SmartBoard, while Mill Creek uses Igo’s laptop.

As Cupid, Liberty student Torrey Hunt explained facts about Valentine’s Day and said “I love you” in Spanish, French and sign language. Logan Stenberg (The Cat in the Hat) recited his rhyme about Theodore Geisel and read from “Oh, the Places You’ll Go!”

Other Liberty actors are Carson Styles and Natalia Watson (George and Martha Washington); Trevor Makarov and Lauren Harksen (Abraham and Mary Todd Lincoln); Blake Payne (Thomas Jefferson); and Dalton Shaw (Benjamin Franklin).

In conversation with the Lincolns, the elementary students asked, “What was it called when he freed the slaves?” Abraham Lincoln answered, “Good question! The Emancipation Proclamation.”

Natalia Watson is assisting with costumes from Liberty’s prop room.

Hooper’s students gained a “a two-fold lesson” by researching and writing their own scripts and practicing characterization. In class, they discussed technology, like the pros and cons of video chat services.

“We’re participants in a grant (Teachers Are Developing as Historians) that supplies resources and materials (for) teaching history,” Igo said. Using supplied biographies, their students have read about famous Americans, presidents and the Civil War.

“Any time you can bring in a ‘guest,’ students are enthralled, especially visual learners,” Graham said. “The kids have background knowledge on the characters we ‘meet’ from the grant’s books so they love seeing characters come to life.”

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