04/18/12 — A lesson in penguins, and an igloo to boot

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A lesson in penguins, and an igloo to boot

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on April 18, 2012 1:46 PM


Paxton Wildman, left, and Carter Lewis look at a book Monday at St. Mary Catholic School. They were enjoying the class's igloo, which teacher assistant Pam Hammond made out of 412 gallon jugs.

So what if winter missed Wayne County this year.

Penguins still found a home in Brooke Chatham's second-grade classroom at St. Mary School, complete with an igloo.

Students made the black-and-white creatures out of construction paper.

But credit for the 5-foot-high facsimile of an igloo goes to teacher assistant Pam Hammond, who spent hours armed with an industrial-sized glue gun whipping an estimated 412 gallon water and milk jugs into shape. It took nearly three weeks and 15 large bags of large glue sticks, she noted.

The project actually started back in the fall, when Mrs. Chatham asked her students to bring in the empty containers. When it became apparent just how many would be needed, it became a school project, she said.

"I was trying to think of something we could make that would be useful in the classroom," she said. "I got online and put in, 'how to make an igloo' and somebody, a school in Texas, had made it."

They didn't have a pattern, Ms. Hammond said, but worked on a foundation.

"You get a piece of cardboard and that's how big your circumference is," she said. "Then I just started. On about the fourth row I started bringing them in a little bit."

That created the dome effect, Mrs. Chatham explained.

The class probably spent two months on the penguin unit, the teacher explained, tying it into science and math lessons, as well as vocabulary.

When it was complete, a string of Christmas lights was strung up to illuminate their work. A sign was then added -- "Chatham's Chillin' Bookery," a take-off on one of the vocabulary words learned in the process, rookery.

"Who can tell me what a rookery is?" Ms. Hammond asked the class.

It's a meeting place for penguins, they said.

"Bookery" seemed fitting, the teachers said, since the space became used as a reading corner, a reward once students completed their classwork.

"It's their little space," said Ms. Hammond. "Our children have loved it."

They also had a lot of fun learning, the students said.

"I learned that in Eskimo language an igloo means house," said McKinley Uzzell.

"I liked that you could study about the penguins and, like, you could meet up with your friends and do that," added Maxwell Young. "And I learned that I think it was that Emperor penguins can weigh up to 79 pounds."

"How many types of penguins are there?" asked Ms. Hammond.

"Seventeen," Maxwell replied.

Classmate Spencer Harrell pointed out that penguins are "really cool."

"I like the way we got to see how it (the igloo) was built," said McKinley.

"I really liked discovering about penguins," Spencer added.

But perhaps the best thing about it, pointed out McKinley, was just how much the creation looked like an igloo.

"And it's fun to just chill out in there," said Maxwell.

Spencer said she had appreciated getting to spend time inside the igloo, reading.

"We brought a bunch of books in there," she said.

Now that the unit is over, it's time for the igloo to be dismantled.

Ideally, after all that hard work, it could be kept for future classes to enjoy.

Mrs. Chatham said her 4-year-old child expressed an interest in bringing it home.

She'd even considered donating it to StageStruck, as it might be able to use it for a prop.

"But we can't get it out of the classroom," Ms. Hammond said with a chuckle.