Tucson Daily Citizen from Tucson, Arizona on May 13, 1967 · Page 42
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Tucson Daily Citizen from Tucson, Arizona · Page 42

Tucson, Arizona
Issue Date:
Saturday, May 13, 1967
Page 42
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Examining A Leaf Snakes Are So Velvety Citizen Photos By Dan Tortorell .^-^A f^ 4 «= Measuring Height Of Colloirwood Mr. and Mrs. George Bradt A Lot To Learn By Margaret Kuehlthau CITIZEN STAFF WRITER The Demonstration Board Knows All The school room hums with activity. Twenty - seven fifth a n d sixth graders, fired with the desire to learn, work straight through their recess periods, concentrating on special projects. At the noon hour, after hastily eating their lunch, they immediately group and re-group in the classroom. No ona asks them to devote this extra time to class work. Voluntary, too, is the race from the school bus to the school room because, as one c h i l d explained: "There's such an awful lot to learn, you know." "School here is a blast," volunteered another, during recess, as he sanded a wooden reproduction of a Henry rifle. "I wish we didn't even have to have vacations." This observation came, mind you, from a boy growing up on a ranch! But this is no ordinary school. It is the Elgin School, one of the few remaining rural schools in Arizona, and two of its teachers are -Mr. and Mrs. George Bradt. T h e B r a d t s (everyone knows them as Sis and George) are recognized nationally as two of the finest "progressive" teachers in the country. For those who tend to stiffen at the word "progressive" -- as applied to grade school education -- let Bradt explain the enthusiasm one finds in their classrooms; "When children love what they are doing, it's not work. It's play. If there is one thing I want them to get from this PAGE 16 schoolroom it is this: you can learn and study and have fun at the same time." No bells ring to announce the beginning of the school day. Why bother? Every child already is preoccupied with a project of his . own choosing. He may be writing script for a movie or he may be puzzling over a high school level geometry problem. (And these kids, remember, are fifth and sixth graders!) The Bradts have .been teaching at E l g i n f o r four years. George teaches the older children, his wife teaches the third and fourth graders, and a M r s . Virginia Chenette has the first and second grades. This is the 20th year of teaching for the Bradts whose school rooms have ranged from Chihuahua, Mex., to the big cities where they found they "couldn't take it." "In the city, we were too closely confined to the schoolroom," reported the Bradts. They are naturalists who utilize the whole wide outdoors as their classroom. To them, a nature trail is as important to the development of a child as is an arithmetic book. Math becomes more than an abstract formula when the entire class hikes a mile and puts a geometry lesson to work to determine the height of a majestic cottonwood tree. "We must never forget that schools are for children," believes Bradt. "If they are to progress, they must be intellectually occupied. -*» "Here they set their patterns for life, and here they learn there is no royal road to learning. There is no easy way. "Our s t u d e n t s must get their basic work done and we use the material found in standard text books. But we supplement it with work projects in every possible situation. Children must learn to use in a practical manner the knowledge they gain from books. "I can't teach them anything but I can help them learn. I can help them help themselves. They check their own work for errors. They pour over the dictionary and thesaurus. "They work with one another. They work alone. One must believe in children. They want to be fine. They want to learn, and we believe in the quality of work a child puts out -- not the quantity." C h i l d r e n at the Elgin school, knowing they are trusted, never abuse the freedom of movement they are granted in t h e schoolroom, according to Bradt. Science and nature, geography and arithmetic are combined as the children build to scale on the school grounds a topographic map of their 180 s q u a r e-mile-school district, which extends from the top of the Santa Rita Mountains to the top of the Mustang Mountains. The school rooms at Elgin are natural history museums with dozens of mineral and plant s p e c i m e n s , snake skins, an eagle's talons and feathers (the bird was shot by mistake by a hunter), and live snakes, lizards, rodents and fish. Bradt says his school places "a great deal of emphasis on language, writing and expression." The children write endless descriptions of bugs, birds, and animals found on the range, coordinating their patterns of existence with desert vegetation. The school's complete science library, including ' books on a college level, is in constant use. As they start off on a hike, the children are used to this admonition by Bradt: "Be careful. Don't step on a rat-, tlesnake You might break its back." He is not being facetious. The boys. and girls never kill any living thing if it can be avoided. The snakes they skin have been found dead on the highways by parents and are turned over to the school to be frozen until needed for classroom study. On their hikes, they carry butterfly nets, study and identify 'their catch and then, gently, release the butterfly to flutter away to freedom. As they approach an old board or piece of tin abandoned on the grassy rangeland, they will hear Bradt ask: "Anyone at home here? Lift the board carefully, and we'll see if there's a scorpion underneath." Poisonous or harmless, the insects are identified:and the cover carefully replaced. History becomes alive as the entire school prepares to produce a movie on "The Ambush of Lieut. Gushing," a fight that took place in 1871 between Indians and Troop F of the U.S. Army's Third Cavalry. The students, who have visited a movie set on location, will write the script, dramatize the parts, and make their own costumes and props. (Children from the ranches are bringing in horse hair from which they will fashion wigs for the Indian warriors.) Enthusiasm for this project has spread to the parents, and school families, each week, meet for picnics in isolated areas, trying to find the exact location of the ambush. (Historians cannot agree on the site.) Bradt doesn't believe in homework for children -- unless it is voluntary. Always available to answer questions, he prefers, as a teacher to tell a child where an answer can be found and let the child do his own research. He believes that children "should not compete against others but against themselves, always asking questions and always searching for answers.'" "In our classrooms," he says, "each child works on projects within his own scope of interest, attention and ability. And in our school district, families play an integral part of school life, all w o r k i n g together. We're friends, and this is important. "We place great emphasis on science and nature because if children are awakened to nature which is beautiful and free and available to almost everyone, they will know the best the world has to offer. "And, in their own lives, they never will be satisfied with the artificial." Butterfly Identification Small Fry Big Business PAGE 17

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