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Emerson students use 'bottle people' to enhance love of reading

| Monday, Oct. 31, 2011

Fourth-graders at Emerson Elementary School in West Mifflin were asked to think outside of the bottle and, in the process, encouraged a love for reading in younger students.

That thinking led to some creative soda pop "bottle people," as well as a "bottle bird/man," a "bottle dolphin," even a "bottle pig."

Teachers Tina Keller and Amy Benyak-Fisher found a way to make a typical book report into a fun project that they shared with Emerson's kindergarten, first- and second-graders on Friday.

"This project appeals to all learners and students," Keller explained. "In turn, students are challenged to be creative and think outside of the bottle."

Each of the approximately 60 fourth-graders chose a chapter book or novel to read. They were asked to write a book report focusing on the main character, as well as to summarize the story, identify the main idea and details and retell the story in the correct order of events.

They each drew a picture of the main character from the story, then spent approximately two weeks at school and at home working on their bottle person.

Tyler Tobias said that making his bird/man Jack from R.L. Stine's "How I Learned to Fly" made it easier for him to present his book report to the younger students. He created Jack with lots of red feathers and a pair of googly eyes.

Moureen Fabian chose "Charlotte's Web" by E.B. White as her novel, and created Wilbur the pig from a Coca-Cola bottle. Like her classmates, she explained that she used things she found around the house for Wilbur. She spray-painted the inside of the bottle pink, twisted a Bendaroo stick into a spiral for his tail, and cut cardboard shapes for the feet and ears.

"I think it was a good idea to do this," Moureen said of the assignment. "It's a lot more fun to make a bottle of the main character."

Olivia Studnicki, who wants to be a journalist when she grows up, made a bottle person of a main character to whom she could relate: Delilah James in "Front Page Face-Off" by Jo Whittemore.

It wasn't difficult for Olivia to choose this particular book from her collection.

"I have a ton of books and I read a lot. This is my favorite," she said.

Olivia made student journalist Delilah complete with a journal, newspaper, notebook and cell phone. She even managed to recycle not only a plastic bottle, but also some of her old clothing.

"I really liked cutting up my old clothes," she said. "I liked doing the hair, too," which she braided from yarn. "The hair was so much fun."

Jacquelin Emery also recycled more than a plastic bottle by creating Jess from "Bridge to Terabithia." She used denim from a pair of her mother's old jean shorts, along with some felt and the head of a Bratz doll.

"I thought that this was really fun," noted Jaquelin, who enjoyed the entire project. "I liked drawing the pictures and writing the details."

Kathan Weber said creating a bottle person of Anne Frank after reading "Anne Frank: Diary of a Young Girl" made the project fun.

"It really did," he said, explaining he also used items from his home, such as sticks for his character's arms and legs, and a glove for a hat.

Juliette Saunders said her father helped her create a papier-mache head over a light bulb for her character, Nikki, from "Dork Diaries." Her mother helped her with the finishing touches, such as makeup. She recycled beads from old bracelets to make Nikki's eyes, and used another old bracelet for Nikki's necklace.

"It was really fun making it, especially with family members," she said.

Noah Rakaczky created Tom Sawyer's overalls from those of a scarecrow's green burlap.

"It was fun because my mom and I got to work on a craft together," he said.

Nya Lewis, who created a gymnast from "A Sense of Balance" by Nancy Meltzoff, attached a Styrofoam head to her bottle, along with yarn hair, plastic straw arms, and clothing created from an old bathing suit with help from her grandmother.

Kaelin Rebholz presented her book report and bottle person of Judy Moody, from the popular series of children's books by the same name.

"I think you should all read (tilde)Judy Moody' when you get older," she told the younger students.

She especially enjoyed their laughter when she described the funny parts of her book.

"I loved how they were so amused," she said.

The students' bottle character creations can be viewed in Emerson's display window in the lobby.

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