STOCKTON, CA - Fourth grade is an indoor sport in which students can participate, according to teacher Greg Kalthof.
Kalthof makes that thinking come alive in his classroom at Brookside School in Stockton as students giggled and eagerly took part in his lesson on the California Gold Rush.
They became the prospectors who had to decide how to get to the gold fields in 1849. They had several choices. "This one is kind of different. You get to sail and you have to walk," explained Kalthof as he showed them advertisements put out by guides who promised to get migrants to California.
"If you go this way, you bring your own wagon and three months' supplies," he said.
The children rolled the dice to determine if they actually completed the make-believe trip. Some ran to a gold field poster and staked a claim. Others ran into trouble and had to start over.
"It's something that keeps them thinking and keeps them active," Kalthof said. "They actually get to participate and not just watch me talk all day."
It's a method Kalthof has used in his classroom for 13 years after leaving a job in finance. "I volunteered in a classroom. I wanted to do something for the rest of my life that I would enjoy," Kalthof said. "I remembered thinking fondly of fourth grade. That was my favorite grade."
But not all class trips his students take are imaginary. Kalthof showed pictures from a recent field trip to Mission San Juan Bautista, the largest of the California missions.
"They got to see how early Californians lived (in the 1700's and early 1800's)," Kalthof said.
He vowed to keep kids guessing about what they'll experience in his class in the coming days.
"I want them to look back on fourth grade and remember how much I cared about them," Kalthof said. "I want them to leave me feeling confident about themselves and what they can do."
By Karen Massie, firstname.lastname@example.org