Corsicana Daily Sun, Corsicana, Texas

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October 6, 2013

Students working way to Austin

Corsicana — Teachers and students of Fannin Elementary are already thinking about spring break because the day before spring break starts, they’re taking 120 fourth graders to Austin.

“It’s the first time it’s been done on this campus,” said Principal Diane Acock. “We’re excited.”

Only a small number of the 9- and 10-year-olds have been as far as Waco, and even fewer have been to Austin. According to the Texas Education Agency’s Academic Excellence Indicator Report for last year, 96 percent of the students at Fannin are from economically disadvantaged homes.

“We’ve had regular field trips to Dallas to the zoo or the aquariums. That’s as far as we’ve gone,” explained Patricia Smith, one of the teachers leading the effort.

Smith teaches Texas history and science at Fannin, one of two Texas history teachers on the campus.

“It’s all related to our curriculum and the fact that these kids have never had this opportunity before,” Smith said. “Hopefully, we can make this a tradition.”

Of the 60 students in her classes, none have ever been to Austin, she said.

“They know where Ennis and Kerens are, but Dallas is their adventure spot,” Smith said. “Waco is as close as to the capital as most of them have been.”

The teachers have been in touch with both the capitol staff and the staff of the Bullock Museum, and gotten lessons to help prepare the kids for what they’ll see, so they can better appreciate. They’ve also been trying to tie it in with other classes. They’re hoping to be able to sing in the rotunda of the capitol, as part of their music classes, for example.

“Now we’ll be able to see history for real,” she said. “All they’ve ever seen is that textbook. They’ll get to see it in person.”

Bowie and Sam Houston elementaries have taken student trips to Austin, but it is a first for Fannin. Part of the reason is the money. They can’t take school buses because the buses can’t leave until after school starts at 8 a.m., and they have to be back by 3 p.m. This means they have to hire commercial buses, which is going to cost about $5,000 for the day. The entire trip will cost $6,000, including admission to the Bob Bullock Texas History museum for all the kids and lunch.

“(The buses) are the biggest expense,” Smith explained. “Twelve hours of rented buses is a little expensive.”

In addition to the 120 kids, there will be at least 16 adults. The school district requires 12 adults, but Smith and her fellow teachers agreed that the more adults, the better, so they added four adults to the mix. If any other parents want to come, they have to pay their own way, Smith said.

In order to raise the funds, they’re selling T-shirts, and bumper stickers, and collect pennies. They’ll also have a karaoke night from 6 to 8 p.m. Nov. 21 in the school gym. Their deadline to raise the money for the buses is Dec. 31.

Fourth grade is a big one because it’s one of those make-or-break years for advancement. These students have to pass a STAAR writing test in the spring, about three weeks after the big trip.

“We thought ‘let’s give them something to look forward to besides taking the test,’” Smith said. “The students are very excited.”

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Janet Jacobs may be reached via email at jjacobs@corsicanadailysun.com. Want to “sound off” to this article? Email: Soundoff@corsicanadailysun.com

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