School reaches for the sky with classroom rocket ship
by David Lazenby
Nov 13, 2010 | 3987 views | 0 0 comments | 9 9 recommendations | email to a friend | print
A.J. Light, a second grader at Oakman Elementary School, stands near the rocket ship built in the classroom of his teacher, Heather Thomasson. The model spacecraft serves as a reading nook for Light and other students in Thomasson’s class. Photo by: David Lazenby
A.J. Light, a second grader at Oakman Elementary School, stands near the rocket ship built in the classroom of his teacher, Heather Thomasson. The model spacecraft serves as a reading nook for Light and other students in Thomasson’s class. Photo by: David Lazenby
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Oakman Elementary School volunteers recently made an effort to boost books at the school by building a classroom rocket ship where students are rewarded with extra reading time.

The model spacecraft in Heather Thomasson’s second grade classroom is in keeping with her decorative theme, “To Infinity and Beyond,” the catchphrase of Buzz Lightyear, a character in the “Toy Story” film series.

Thomasson said her class rotates the privilege of using the cleverly designed reading nook made mostly of sheet metal and lumber.

Inside the rocket, creators installed several vehicle dials to make the spaceship more authentic. To this end, they also installed NASA stickers on the imitation interstellar vehicle.

The students in Thomasson’s classroom say the rocket ship built by Everett Thompson of Parrish along with other school boosters is a blast.

Oakman Elementary Principal Dennis Willingham said the spaceship is as much about education as it is about entertainment.

“Anytime you take a regular classroom and make adjustments to it to make it fun, it really enhances the learning environment for the kids,” Willingham said.

Other teachers at Oakman Elementary have added their own creative classroom additions.

Another second grade teacher at Oakman Elementary, Teresa Woods, said her husband Tony built the reading nook in her classroom designed to resemble another kind of ship — the Mayflower.

Woods is using the structure to teach her students about American history. “This is the beginning of it,” she said about the ship that has become a symbol for early European colonization of the New World.

Another structure in Woods’ classroom, one that resembles a teepee, is being used to teach her students about Native Americans.

“We’re learning about Native Americans and how they helped the pilgrims when they arrived,” Woods said.

Another reading station at the school forces students to first conquer a climbing wall before it can be used.

Willingham said the structures may encourage an extra effort by some pupils.

“Just making a slight adjustment to the room or adding some other type of enhancement may inspire a kid to want to do more and want to read more,” he said.