North Star Navigator

Cyberfair 2000-2001
Setting Our Paths for the Stars

A Celebration of Our Local and Global Communities

Cheryl Vitali, Teacher/Resource Specialist
Alta Elementary School
Reedley, CA

Cheryl Vitali, Classroom Connect's 2000 "Internet Educator of the Year," is a dynamic and amazingly resourceful teacher. Dedicated to providing her students with rich learning experiences that not only match individual learning styles, but also help them explore their interests and expand their visions of the future, Cheryl's teaching style and approach are truly North Star. Read on as Cheryl eloquently explains how The North Star and its messages have become a very natural, yet very present component of her classroom.

tiny row of blue stars

The North Star story fits in beautifully in my Resource Specialist Program at Alta. The children can readily relate to the idea of a unique journey of their own. I use the story as a point of inspiration and discussion in many classroom activities. This is rarely as a formal connection, but the children find many things that they relate to The North Star theme.

What I really enjoy about The North Star is how the children connect the concepts and extensions into their own explorations and discovery. We might be studying history, reading a legend, or writing a poem, and the children will make comments about The North Star and what they are discovering. What this demonstrates to me is how deeply they have related to the theme of the story and tied the concepts into their own personal journey. I think that any time students can make abstract connections between diverse topics, it helps them to tie into more permanent learning and retention of skills. They are enjoying the learning process and find it engaging.

I normally have many "happenings" occurring in my classroom throughout the year that are complemented by The North Star theme. To tap into the creativity and abilities of my students, I often have a variety of projects they may participate in. I do not require that all students complete any one project, but all participate in several.

blue star
This poem and painting were inspired by the book
In My Mother's House
by Ann Nolan Clark

watercolor painting of a tree branch with pink flowers
Brown Fields

Brown fields
Trees sleeping
The sun brushes
The trees arms.
"Wake up, wake up!"
Flowers pink, purple
White up to the skies.

by Kimi Grade 2
May 17 2000

student watercolor painting of a person putting a cage over a rabbit. They are on brown hills with two treesThe year began with the completion of the final chapter for the "Progressive Story" that my students wrote and illustrated in collaboration with a number of different classrooms around the world, via the internet. The children created some illustrations for the story that were influenced by The North Star (see pictures to the left and below). The main theme this year, besides The North Star, was our second "International Fest." The Fest was actually celebrated over a two-day period, but the theme was used at various points throughout the year. Older students completed some remarkable reports on countries that brought in original stories from immigrants and people who had lived in these countries. Many students also participated in "America Quest." They explored the mysteries of the Anazazi. During this unit, an in-depth exploration of poetry was done with all students that resulted in some magnificent poems and wonderful illustrations. The inspiration of The North Star was noticeable in this work.

Much of this work took place over days or weeks, because the children discovered that their best work normally required sustained efforts over time. Allowing The North Star and other themes to be reference points of discovery allowed them to weave naturally in and out of the curriculum as it was appropriate. The North Star rarely, if ever, became the focus of a lesson, but it was often a source of inspiration and light. The actual story was probably read only two times at most to any student in the classroom. The fact that students mentioned and referred to it often reflects on the impact that it had. The book was kept on display throughout the year.

blue swirl

This short essay was to inspired by an activity that asked students to compare Martin Luther King, Jr. to the class theme of The North Star, and what their own journey might be.

tiny blue swirl

Martin Luther King, Jr. followed his star. He helped black and white people meet each other. I want to be the president of the United States of America. If I am president, I can also help people like Martin Luther King, Jr.


student watercolor paintingThe children have become used to sharing their work in many ways, through personal contacts in the classroom, occasional articles in the paper about special events, and by using the Internet to showcase the best of their efforts. It helps them to take real pride in their accomplishments and be willing to take work to a more polished level of completion. A significant happening was seeing one student receive an award for the Best Free Verse for grades 4-5 in the district. He read his poem at the local high school, and this has inspired him to want to write more.

At a community level, I have shared with local clubs and through the media about the work the students have done. The response has been enthusiastic and although The North Star is part of this, what comes through are the unique "constellations" and efforts that are happening through working in a variety of ways and by communicating ideas with others. Currently, efforts are growing with community contacts on completion of the Cyberfair project that will hopefully involve many individuals throughout the community sharing their skills and the resources that have been built by shared efforts over many years.

tiny row of blue stars

E-mail Cheryl if you'd like to learn more about her projects, or check out her webpage!

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