Park City Academy kids learn continents hands-on
Park City Academy kindergarten teacher Marlene Naftz used her classroom as a plane to fly her 18 students to all seven continents, in seven days, where they dined on delicacies of spaghetti and German chocolate cake in Europe, ate ice cream in Antarctica, and threw boomerangs in Australia.
On Wednesday, students let their imaginations soar as they boarded 151/2 hour flight to Australia, to be flown in their imaginary plane by a very real pilot with a very real Australian accent. Cathay Pacific 747-400 pilot Murray Gardner and his wife Felicity came to class to share Australia with the kids, and in the end, every student got to throw a wooden boomerang (outside).
After taking their seats, Captain Gardner welcomed them on board. Students provided their own sound effects for take off, ranging from whooshing sounds to the roar of race cars. It took a lot of noise to accompany the thrust of the 18 engines. Kids flapped their wings to help the plane get airborne.
Two flight attendants came down the aisle with a beverage cart, serving drinks and Australian cookies that Captain Gardner said are called biscuits in Australia, or "bickies." Each child was given a souvenir mini- kangaroo.
Exhausted, after the grueling flight, the students carried their cardboard suitcases stuffed with memorabilia from their travels, and went through customs. There, their passports, with a photo of them, were stamped. Naftz put Australian custom stickers on their suitcases.
Naftz, dressed as the second-officer, has been taking kindergartners to the seven continents for 14 years. Students spend two to three weeks studying the people’s languages and customs of each continent.
"We talk about the differences in peoples and how they live," said Naftz. "I also want the kids to learn good manners, watch what the locals do, and try to duplicate that."
For each continent, parents volunteered to create a continental experience for the kids, providing indigenous fanfare.
First Officer Gardner let kids in on a few Australian secrets. Kangaroos, which have the reputation of being feisty kick-boxers, are really rather docile, and have fur as soft as a rabbit’s. On the other hand, the seemingly cuddly koala bears are anything but. Gardner said, they are moody, can deliver nasty scratches to unsuspecting people, with their prominent tree-climbing claws, and they are a bit smelly.
Naftz and the Gardners led students outside to throw a boomerang. Captain Gardner said Aborigines do not use a boomerang that returns, because they fully expect to bag their game with the projectile, and then retrieve both dinner and their weapon. On this day, the boomerang flew over a fence, ended up at the other end of the lawn, and on several on several occasions, did return within the vicinity of the thrower.
"That was really fun," student Katie Rusconi said. "Except it didn’t go so far."
To end the Australian experience, Gardner’s wife, Felicity, showed kids paintings done by Aborigines, colored with inks made from berries. Kids then colored cardboard boomerangs using crayons.
Seven continents in seven days is a lot, even for seasoned travelers, but the kids seemed ready for more.
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