By Shelby Schroeder

Niles pupils get lesson in family togetherness

1About 70 pupils participated in the fifth annual Niles Day by researching and constructing models of popular buildings in the city.

Third-grade instructor Laurie Williams said the project, while mainly focused on social studies, also reinforces lessons in language arts, history and even math.

“There’s some math because they’re building somewhat to scale and they’re using geometry with shapes,” she said.

Families and pupils were invited to pick up their final projects in the school’s gymnasium Tuesday, where tables were set up for a final group showcase of the structures.

The children used shoe boxes, ice cream sticks, paper and paints to design their landmarks. Some even explored their creativity by integrating spaghetti, photographs, Mylar and sand into their designs.

But the pupils’ choices of landmarks to model were most creative to visitors.

Christian Kijowski, 8, presented his model of Eastwood Field, which he made with help from his dad.

“I like baseball a lot and wanted to pick it,” said Christian, who pointed to the outfield of the model as his favorite part.

Joe Kijowski said he and his son would offer the colorful project to the owners of Eastwood Field for display. If not, Christian is counting on a special place in the family’s playroom.

Williams said that kind of enthusiasm for their work is why she and the school’s two other third-grade instructors, Teresa Elbon and Mary Mrowka, decided to revive the project five years ago.

When another teacher in the district stopped the annual tradition, Williams said, other instructors wanted to bring back the “perfect” teaching tool.

As families coursed through the elementary’s gym, pupils talked with enthusiastic pride about their Farmer’s Bank buildings, police stations, favorite restaurants and stores. Their presentations were founded on the research aspect of the project.

Nya Ingram, 8, and her mother, Shani, built a replica of the William McKinley birthplace, which is coincidentally a replica itself.

“I liked learning about it,” Nya said of the house, which was complete with two chimneys and lace curtains in the windows.

She explained what was most interesting about the Niles home is “that the original one burned down.”

Shani Ingram, like other parents, said the project was a joint effort. While Nya cut out pieces for the home, she was in charge of the hot glue gun.

That family togetherness, Williams said, is another pleasant component of the project’s lesson.

“I’ve had no hesitation in believing my students did [these projects] by themselves, but had family help,” she said.

“It’s also very important in the time when families are moving so fast.”

Gina Price, whose daughter Makenzie presented a replica of the Niles police station, said the project was stressful at first.

“I was worried about finding the time, and I’m not good with construction,” she joked. “But we learned a lot and had fun.”

Linda Ruggles, principal at Washington Elementary, thanked parents for their involvement, as well as for providing punch and cookies for the underage architects.

She’s also satisfied her teachers could make a school project so enthralling for students.

“It’s their favorite project of the entire year,” Ruggles said of the children.

“They’re proud to do it — they love it.”


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