Local teacher ‘shapes up’ learning with hands-on activity

MIFFLINTOWN – Susan Wagner’s fifth grade students are enjoying The Sentinel in three dimensions.

For the past two days, the students at Fermanagh-Mifflintown Elementary School have been rolling, folding and taping the newspaper to make 2-D or 3-D shapes. She said the hands-on activity encourages students to think critically and problem solve.

Students chose who they wanted to work with and what shape to construct. For some students, the more challenging the shape, the better.

Brayden Pannebaker said he and a group of three other boys decided to make a pentagon “because it looked like it would be the hardest one.”

After projects were completed, students were required to share with the rest of the class as many different math skills as they could relate to their shape. A notecard was attached to each design that noted the number of faces, edges and vertices the shape had. Final projects were hung on display from the ceiling of the classroom.

Across the room from Pannebaker’s group, a trio of girls worked together to construct a house. While some students chose their shapes from a textbook, the girls agreed to create their own design.

“We wanted to be more competitive,” said Natalia Colon.

She said the project wasnt really a competition and their creative edge was all in good fun.

“We made this up ourselves,” said Maddy Bollinger, a member of Colon’s group.

The girls also worked alongside Kiersten Willis.

In another corner of the classroom, Jessica Castro and Julianna Beeker rolled their newspaper into a triangle. They said their choice of design was easier than others, but it allowed them to pay more attention to detail.

“Even though its the simplest, it comes out neater,” Beeker said.

“My favorite part of this lesson is watching the students communicate,” Wagner said, adding that she observes the class with great pride.

The activity targets skills required for PSSA tests students will take in the spring.