Taking the "Australia unit’

Cindy Ramunno

Fourth-graders at Gypsum Elementary School have a unique opportunity to be up close and personal with two Aussies of their own – teachers Chris Botheras and Fiona Ikin. Botheras is a master teacher at the school, while Botheras teaches the elementary students art.

“I thought that was pretty neat,” says fourth-grader Amanda Morgan of Botheras and Ikin. “The animals are very different than our animals. Australia has kangaroos, koalas, dolphins and possums.”

Fourth-grade teachers Marcie Gass, Pat Hollandsworth and Rich Deane wrapped up their unit with a unique event. And they took full advantage of their co-workers’ knowledge of Australian culture, food and slang words.

“We learned so much,” says student Bryce Steggall. “I would definitely want to visit Australia now to see everything – especially the opera house floating on the ocean.”

Different kids are excited about different things, but the main goal is educating. This is one of those many events that make that happen.

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“I liked learning about the humongous rock (Ayers Rock),” says Brandon Hudspeth. “I would love to go there someday to study animals.”

The kids gather in the music room, sing the Aussie national anthem and discussed similarities and differences between that country and the United States. Kids eat Vegemite, the Aussie version of peanut butter. Most kids don’t like it, but some kids think it was “alright.”

Students also drink Milo, a chocolate drink product in Australia.

“I liked the Milo. It tastes like chocolate milk,” says Steggall.

Teachers teach the students Australian slang. A pacifier is called a “dummy,” a pick-up truck is a “ute,” a turtleneck shirt a “skive” and a cookie is a “biscuit.” Kids check out Aussie money, bills of all different colors and different sizes. There are no $1 and $2 bills; those are coins. $1.69 in Australian money is equivalent to $1 in the U.S. Teachers explain politics – prime minister vs. president – and cultural similarities and differences.

“We have excellent resources within our own building,” says teacher Rich Deane. “We are extremely fortunate to have such a diverse, knowledgeable staff at GES.”

To learn more about the fourth-grade curriculum or any curriculum at the Eagle County School District, call Gary Rito at 328-6321.

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