Students get a chance to experience the ’60s

By Jennifer Holloway - Staff Writer
Somers - posted Thu., Jun. 2, 2011
Tyler Hannan and Cooper Clow dressed up for '60s Day at Mabelle B. Avery Middle School in Somers. Photos by Jennifer Holloway.
Tyler Hannan and Cooper Clow dressed up for '60s Day at Mabelle B. Avery Middle School in Somers. Photos by Jennifer Holloway.

Seventh-grade students at Mabelle B. Avery Middle School in Somers spent Friday, May 27, celebrating ’60s Day. The day was a blur of peace signs, bell bottoms, go-go boots and even fake beards and wigs, as students played four square or hula hoop, did the limbo and belted out lyrics to “Yellow Submarine.”

The event started last year when language arts teachers taught the book “The Wednesday Wars,” by Gary Schmidt, for the first time. The book, set in 1967-68, tells the story of Holling Hoodhood, who is also in the seventh grade. To help students understand what Holling would have experienced, the teachers created ’60s Day.

Students and their teachers came dressed in ’60s attire and rotated through workshops where they played games from the decade, tie-dyed shirts, made peace bracelets and sang karaoke to the Beatles.

“There are so many cultural references to the ’60s in the book,” said Debra Brown, a language arts teacher. “It’s a great way to teach social studies by using literature.”

Social studies teacher (and pitcher for the wiffle ball workshop) Michael Szafir said he piggybacked off the language arts teachers and taught a unit on the Vietnam War.

“[’60s Day is] a great, culminating activity to understand what life was like and the activities the characters experienced in the book,” he said.

Kevin Nevins, a language arts teacher, contacted Schmidt, and students were able to Skype with the author this year. “He told them about his writing style and process, and they asked him questions,” Nevins said. Students learned that Holling was actually based on Schmidt.

Brown said the students were able to see clips of John F. Kennedy and Walter Cronkite while studying the book because media from the ’60s is so accessible on the Internet.

To end the day, students filed into the vocal performance room for a concert by Tenstring. The duo, formed by Mick Niewinski and Garrett Demmerle, played hits from ’60s bands.

“The Monkees are in the book,” Brown said as she looked in on students listening to the concert. “They really get to live the book.”

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