Gala: The rest is history

June 10, 2013 

Care to sample Pepsi-Cola or learn to shag as part of a history lesson?

One Apex teacher is using these types of activities to teach students that past events are relevant to how we live today.

I have a school-age kiddo, so I know that the best teachers are the ones who make learning fun. Heck, that works for adults too.

Frankly, history gets a bum rap sometimes, but Olive Chapel Elementary’s addition of a before-school history club has kids excited.

Rachael Stauffer is a fourth-grade teacher at Olive Chapel and founded the club last fall. She got the idea from the North Carolina Museum of History, which has a junior historians club.

She’s also a history buff and teaches the history of the town of Apex to her students.

Along the way, Stauffer noticed some students were losing interest – not in history, necessarily, but with learning in general.

“I’m on our data team at OCE, and as we analyzed our school test data, we saw that our males were not making the same gains as our females,” Stauffer said. “Being the mom to two boys, this was concerning. I wanted to create a club that would appeal to the boys. Many of them are history buffs, and I thought this would be a great way to generate interest.

“We started the year by exploring pirates in the coastal region, learned to tie sailors’ knots, explored duck calls and shagging,” continued Stauffer, who was a finalist for the 2013 Wake County Teacher of the Year award. “For the mountain region, we talked about tourism and its impact on the state. We also learned about the history of Pepsi-Cola in North Carolina and why the bottles say ‘Born in the Carolinas.’ We then spent a good amount of time learning about Apex.”

Mary Petersen’s fourth-grade daughter, Caley, didn’t mind the 8 a.m. before-school meeting time.

“This club has definitely changed her perception of what history entails, and she realizes now that there is so much to learn about our state,” Petersen said.

Petersen helped coordinate the club’s last meeting of the year – a tour of the Maynard-Pearson House, the home of the Apex Historical Society.

Located just up the road from the school, the historic home features all kinds of Apex memorabilia, from old town signs to board games local families used to play. Several parents attended as well.

“The tour was a great culminating activity,” Stauffer said. “We opened it up to my entire homeroom class. The students really enjoyed asking questions and seeing so many artifacts from our town. It was also wonderful to see the parents as students. They drive by the house daily but, for many, it was the first time they had stopped for a tour.”

Stauffer is considering opening the club to fifth-graders next year because her inaugural members don’t want to leave.

Now that is some powerful learning.

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