Khaznat al-Faroun at Petra, Jordan. Photo taken by Calvin College professor Bert DeVries

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Return to the PETRA homepage April 4, 2005 - August 15, 2005
Lost City of Stone

News: April 29, 2005

Local Students Will Be Petra Guides

Calvin College has coordinated a whole slate of educational activities to support the Petra: Lost City of Stone exhibition.

Perhaps none is as creative as what will happen on May 11 when students from two Grand Rapids-area elementary schools will serve as expert guides for the exhibition.

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On that Wednesday evening — from 6:30 to 9 pm — entrance to the exhibition will be reserved for parents, faculty and administrators from Buchanan Elementary School and Oakdale Christian School.

Groups of fourth graders from Buchanan and third and fourth graders from Oakdale will be stationed throughout the exhibition, on hand to teach visitors from Buchanan and Oakdale all about Petra and its creators, the Nabataeans.

"Normally in schools, teachers teach," says Randy Buursma, the Calvin Communication Arts and Sciences (CAS) professor coordinating the project. "What's exciting about this project is that the end result will be third and fourth graders teaching. They will become the resource that others will use to enjoy this exhibition."

State Grant Supports Project

Buursma's class has been teaching creative drama at the two schools (and during the fall semester with Potter's House Christian School) as part of a larger Calvin-led literacy project. Through a $179,000 Teacher Quality Grant from the State of Michigan Department of Education, Calvin faculty from several departments are working to support the Four Blocks method of reading and writing — the method adopted by the Grand Rapids Public Schools. In fact, the expenses for the two elementary schools' May 11 visit to Petra: Lost City of Stone will be covered through Teacher Quality Grant.

Students from Buursma's "Creating Communications Arts in the Classroom" class are currently helping the Buchanan and Oakdale children research their Petra projects. The children from both schools share their learning with each other by posting their findings to Knightvision a secured web-based learning environment. After the research process is completed, the children and the Calvin students will create a presentation which could take the shape of choral readings, dramas, panel discussions or some other aspect of creative drama. On May 11 the students will be put into 10 groups, corresponding to the 10 sections of Petra: Lost City of Stone. There each group will give their presentation, explaining their section of the exhibition.

Zwart Says Project Is Exciting

Joel Zwart, on-site curator for the exhibition, is excited about the upcoming event.

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"It's so good on so many levels," he says. "It brings kids into the exhibition so they can learn about it — and then share it with their parents. What better way to learn history?"

Buursma believes that the performing arts are a powerful way to teach reading and writing.

"Any time students connect research and writing with creating public presentations, it leads to literacy," he says.

And the preparation for the event has benefits for the Calvin students who work at Buchanan and Oakdale.

"Many of the Calvin students are experiencing a classroom setting and being responsible for the learning of children for the first time," he says, "and understanding that the learning process isn't easy."

Waves of sand