Students portray great Americans

Christian Heritage School event allows students to learn about, connect with heroes

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From famed scientist Albert Einstein to soccer superstar Mia Hamm, the cafeteria at Christian Heritage School was flush with past and present American heroes last week.

For two hours Friday, the small private school was alive with history, as students, teachers and parents celebrated the school's first Great American Day.

Donning costumes and giving brief presentations to a group of fellow students and parents, the school's kindergarten through sixth-grade students took turns on center stage in what Christian Heritage School director Tim Calkins hopes will become an annual tradition.

For the past month, the school's elementary classes studied a variety of Americans of their own choosing, including famous presidents and first ladies, athletes and musicians. In the process, students learned that fame isn't always a prerequisite for being a great American. Indeed, many students chose to commemorate Americans such as firefighters and soldiers for their contributions to our country.

"Everyone had some freedom to do what they wanted," said Calkins, who took the idea of having a Great American Day from his wife's former Washington school. "A lot of times, it's not the people who become famous that we read about in history books but everyday people who do great things."

Bonnie Girton's second-grade class chose the famous route by studying presidents and first ladies. Second-grader Paige Eivins settled on Mary Todd Lincoln as her great American hero.

"I was the 16th first lady," Eivins told Friday's audience. "I helped all the people suffering from the war, and I invited black people to the White House.

"I have faith in Christ because I thought all men were created equal under God."

The school's third-graders focused on athletes who are good role models.

Joe Dobell, wearing his hockey uniform, played Colorado Avalanche star Joe Sakic -- a Canadian.

"I am always respectful and act like a gentleman to other teams I play in hockey," Dobell said.

Lauri Bradt's fourth grade class dressed up as famous musicians and focused not on their music, but the character traits they exemplified.

"It was a great chance for them to look at role models and think about why people are good role models and good examples," Bradt said.

Her students also learned that fame doesn't always make someone a good role model, she said.

"Being fourth-graders I think they realized just because someone's a famous musician doesn't mean they're a great person," Bradt said.

Great American Day, perhaps most importantly, gave students an opportunity to reflect about individuals who had great influence in shaping the country that America is today, Calkins said.

"They obviously learn a lot about history and even current events," Calkins said. "But I think it also instills a sense of where we came from and the people who made our country what it is today.

"The students have an appreciation of these individuals. I think there's a sense of pride in your country that's a healthy thing."

The fact that Great American Day came on the heels of Halloween -- complete with its costumes -- and Election Day was mere coincidence.

"In a way, it's kind of neat that it came in a timely way where everybody's mind was on their country and the elections," Calkins said.

"I think people enjoyed it," he said. "The students always enjoy dressing up and doing something different."

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