BY INDIANA NASH
NISKAYUNA- The holiday season comes with an assortment of traditions.
For second graders at Rosendale Elementary, it means the Gingerbread project.
“You’re going to have to compromise, you’re going to have to make decisions,” said Rosendale teacher Kate Martin.
Wait, wait, wait. Gingerbread is supposed to be a sugary treat and something you can build with; a dessert that is meant to be played with and eaten. A child’s dream come true.
But at Rosendale, it’s more than that.
It’s about physically building a community through the backdrop of gingerbread.
“It’s truly an interdisciplinary project,” Martin said.
Instead of using the high-glucose gingerbread material to create houses, students use recycled materials from their own homes to plan and build a community.
Students must prove effective math skills, social studies knowledge and negotiating skills.
In order to start building, the students are given a budget to purchase the recycled materials from ‘the bank’.
“We only had 35 cents,” said Gabby Fountain, a second-grade student of Martin’s.
But that 35 cents went a long way. Students created ranch style houses or two story houses out of milk cartons.
Then the real planning begins.
“Second graders have to learn about communities and this is a hands-on way to do it, so they’re not just reading a social studies book,” Martin said.
Working in groups of four, students are given a plot of land to plan out. There has to be a certain amount of space allocated to businesses, to homes, to streets, and to parks.
That’s where the negotiating begins.
Although students can make their plots more urban, rural, or suburban, Martin said that the entire community usually ends up looking like a suburban layout (not entirely unlike Niskayuna).
Students decide whether or not their houses should be right next to one another, whether the businesses should be interspersed throughout the plot and the configuration of the roads.
While the gingerbread project itself doesn’t directly deal with gingerbread cookies or candy, the class still makes gingerbread cookies, reads retellings of the Gingerbread Man story and each student writes his/her own Gingerbread Man story.
The entire project culminates when two Rosendale second grade classes come place their plots together and create a full community that stretches across the school’s stage.
Students invite their families to come and see the full spectrum of the community they’ve plotted, all to the tune of holiday (and gingerbread-themed) songs that the students prepared.