On the evening of April 11, 2002 an overflow crowd packed into the cafeteria of the Dondero School in Portsmouth, New Hampshire for the second annual “Light Night,” presented by Jan McManus’ fourth grade class. Twenty-one students presented history reports on individual New England lighthouses, while models they created were on display. After the reports were read, the room was darkened and the entire audience joined in and counted down from ten. The evening reached its climax as all of the lighthouse models were illuminated.
The students spent about 12 hours in the art room working on their creations with art teacher Sarah Harrod. Many of them also put in extra time before school and during recesses. According to Sarah Harrod, the models were constructed of “mostly what is commonly referred to as trash,” including cardboard tubes from paper towels, plastic drink bottles, and papier-maché. As they worked on the lighthouse project the students also learned about an educational approach called “Habits of Mind,” which researchers believe can help teach the brain to solve problems. These habits include perseverance, flexibility, asking questions, using precise language, managing impulsivity, sense of humor, metacognition (thinking about a project even when you’re not working on it), creativity, and wonderment.
The students also performed the original song “The Lighthouse,” by music teacher Diane McGee. Last year’s fourth graders performed the song at a 100th birthday party for the author of The Lighthouse Keeper’s Wife, Connie Small.
Teacher Jan McManus, an avid sailor who has long loved lighthouses, originated the lighthouse project and “Light Night.” She and Sarah Harrod feel the program is a resounding success. Says Harrod, “Hopefully through this project we have sparked a new love of learning, a quest to solve problems, a love for nature and our historical lighthouses, a new respect for the ocean and for New England. Hopefully we have a new generation of people who will take care of our earth. This kind of learning can take place in art rooms, classrooms, in any room. It is magic.”
Photos by Jeremy D’Entremont.
This story appeared in the
June 2002 edition of Lighthouse Digest Magazine. The print edition contains more stories than our internet edition, and each story generally contains more photographs - often many more - in the print edition. For subscription information about the print edition, click here.
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