Education column: Float making provides teaching opportunity

Cindy Kleyn-Kennedy

What is it that’s so engaging about a parade? Maybe it’s that excitement and anticipation in the air. Last Friday morning that’s what was felt by those who attended the inaugural Homecoming Day Parade held by the Clovis High School Freshman Academy along Cameo Street between Purdue and 15th streets.

CHSFA math teacher Niki Black first had the idea to make small-scale floats to parade through the building as part of the freshman homecoming activities. As teachers, students, and administrators alike began discussing possibilities, the idea blossomed into a full-fledged celebration by parade.

The event involved not only all ninth grade students, but Cameo Elementary students and teachers from “next door” as well; in fact, the Cameo sixth grade classes served as the official judges for the floats. As part of seventh period service learning, Freshman Academy students have been mentoring Cameo Elementary students as reading buddies. It therefore seemed natural to the freshmen to involve their grade-school student neighbors, along with their teachers, by inviting them to come view and participate in the parade. There was even discussion as to the importance of coming up with healthy snacks to toss to “the little kids” from several of the floats.

I know … so what does a parade have to do with education? Here’s what I learned.

Diana Russell, principal at CHSFA, described the process. “Involving all students in a variety of constructive activities improves their transition into young adulthood and helps them become productive, contributing citizens. Especially now, since we’re focusing on rigor throughout our curricula. Part of that focus entails tying learning to real-world experiences. We know that any time we’re able to connect what’s taking place in the classroom to the real world, student learning is taking place.”

Clubs, learning teams, and small groups — some extra-curricular — created the floats. Calculations were required to construct the actual floats, and planning was needed to sort out the logistics of the event. Richard Hahn’s science class developed an engineering project as they conceived a means to “shoot” confetti from their float. Students learned not only skills in formal, business-letter writing as they went through the process of officially applying to the City of Clovis to request permission to close the street, but had a civics lesson as they then took steps to comply with city requirements, just as any other group would.

In addition to students, teachers, and other staff members, all the parents of students from both school sites were invited to attend. There was great community spirit, and the band played on, as they accompanied this all-too-brief parade.

Learning can be fun, and hard work is never grueling when one is involved, invested, and engaged. Thomas Jefferson noted, “I find that the harder I work, the more luck I seem to have.”