Digest>Archives> October 2002

Lighthouses at Blackhawk Intermediate School

By Mrs. Alice Jubb


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When I began collecting lighthouses about seven years ago, I never thought it would lead me into teaching a unit on lighthouses to my third graders for six years. I happened upon the idea from a workshop I attended with other teachers. Since learning about the states is part of our curriculum, I decided to tie in the lighthouse unit because of their importance in our history throughout the years especially along the coasts and Great Lakes. I also try to emphasize the importance of saving the remaining lighthouses in the United States. I have become known as the "Lighthouse Lady" to many in my school.

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Unfortunately, our school, Blackhawk Intermediate School, lies too far inland from the Atlantic Ocean and too far south of Lake Erie to provide a fieldtrip experience to a lighthouse. I distributed booklets of information I have collected about the history of lighthouses along with their many different styles.

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The students read the information, viewed videos, read books, observed some of my models, and got excited about our final project of creating a lighthouse of their very own. The students decided upon the shape (cylindrical, conical, skeletal, part of a house, etc.), the location (on a cliff, on rocks, out at sea, grassy hillside), and the type of landscaping they wanted surrounding their lighthouse. They talked it over with their parents and gathered materials from home to complete their project.

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For two mornings in May, the children brought whatever they had gathered to school. I, of course, drug out all the materials I had collected and saved throughout the years to add to the available supplies. Plus each year, parents have contributed leftover materials to be packed away for the next year's class. Heavy cardboard bases approximately 12" by 17" were given to each child unless they brought in a base of their own. The most important asset to the project was that parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, friends, or whoever wanted to come were invited to help the students complete their lighthouse project.

We all assembled in our school cafeteria from 9:00 am till 10:45 am. The first morning was devoted to the actual construction of the lighthouse. The second day involved mostly the landscaping. On both days, the time flew by as everyone was so intent on making his/her lighthouse something special. I loved the look of concentration on the part of each child and the adult working with him/her. Not once was there a problem with behavior.

After each student finished his/her lighthouse and had cleaned up the work area, he or she began to formulate a story around the lighthouse he/she had created.

The adults were encouraged to work with them as they followed through with the writing process. Each final copy was typed on special paper, laminated, and displayed by his/her lighthouse in the hallway outside our classroom. A feeling of pride in what they had accomplished was evident on their faces when they observed children from other classes exclaiming on how great they looked. Adults also had high praise for their accomplishments.

When I first attempted this unit on lighthouses, I never expected it to be so successful. The children have always gained an awareness of the importance of lighthouses in the past and the present. I only hope they will continue to want to learn and someday maybe help preserve a real lighthouse. They talked about it at home, and some have even asked their parents to make sure they can see a lighthouse when they go on vacation.

Several parents thanked me over and over for taking the time to do the project and allowing them to be a part of it. They expressed how much they were learning about lighthouses along with their child.

This story appeared in the October 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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