By Lois Rogers | Correspondent
Some 48 eighth-graders walked in the shoes of their teachers Feb. 2 during Teacher Appreciation Day, a Catholic Schools Week tradition in Brick’s St. Dominic School where teachers leave the instruction to their students.
In the kindergarten for instance, youngsters “built” farms on their iPads while others did the same on a SMART Table. On the SMART Board on the wall, farm animals brought a bouncy tune called “On the Farm” to animated life.
Photo Gallery: Teacher for a Day in St. Dominic School
All of this unfolded under the instruction of 13-year-old- eighth graders Danielle Murat and Madelyn Oehime, who not only wrote the tune and created the formats for the iPads, the SMART board and the table, but were also teaching the class.
The team had honed their skills for two years, under the guidance of Robert Zolkiewicz, the school’s director of technology. Musically and artistically talented, technologically adept, they formed a company – Danilyn Learning – created lessons and published a related album of music for children available on iTunes.
This was their first time teaching, and the students they were working with enthusiastically dragged pigs, sheep, goats and the like onto their iPad “farms” surrounded by snug fences.
“There are three cool things about this,” Zolkiewicz said. “The song and the app are available on iTunes, and people are accessing it. They have been working on this project for two years, and they are teaching the class. They started their project in sixth grade, and they really took an interest. The added bonus is their love of technology.”
He said he believes Murat and Oehime will serve as an inspiration to other young women interested in the field.
Down the hall, meanwhile, third-graders were playing a multiplication basketball game created by the upper-class students. Further on, first-graders were playing bingo involving time, money and two-digit numbers invented by the eighth-graders which enabled all their charges to come away with a prize.
Student-created classes included sessions on telling time for first-graders and instructions on the state capital and rational numbers for seventh-graders.
St. Dominic’s principal, Carol Bathmann, who spent the morning visiting classrooms and texting with teachers throughout the building to keep pace with how the exercise was going, called the day a “gift for teachers” culminating a very busy week in the classroom and a real learning experience for students.
“It taught them quite a bit. They got to see what it’s like preparing lessons, managing the classroom and engaging the students,” said Bathmann. “And the kids got to learn from them. Hopefully, some of our student teachers will come back and truly become St. Dominic teachers.”