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By DANELLE LANDIS
Daily News Staff Writer
“Dragon City” was open for business Nov. 8 at Tongass School of Arts and Sciences.
The din of excited voices from the students packed into the first- and second-grade corner classrooms blended with the smell of popcorn to create a carnival-like atmosphere.
Allyson Sebciouglu and Carol Stanton’s students welcomed customers from other classes as they manned their “stores” in the city they researched, invented and built.
Stanton said there was a lot of writing and hands-on work involved in creating the plans and signs for the city, making it a more valuable experience.
“It’s a lot of activity, but then they really remember, because they did it. They created it,” she said.
Principal Marion Gonzales said that the students started with researching the components of what makes up a community. They took field trips to 18 places around Ketchikan and Saxman, such as the hospital, a veterinary office, a jewelry store and an art gallery.
On a chart in the classroom, there were photos of the students at the places they visited next to a map of the area. There were printouts of key informational points they’d studied, such as what a map is for, an explanation that Alaskans are part of the United States and that as citizens, they can vote to make decisions and to elect leaders.
After taking the students on multiple field trips, Sebciouglu said they told the students it was time to make decisions about their own city.
“OK, a community needs services and businesses,” Sebciouglu said she told her students. “What do you want to create?”
Businesses in the students’ Dragon City included a shipyard, dentist office, veterinary office and tattoo parlor. There also was a police station — complete with a jail, a city bus, grocery store, pizza shop and a library.
At the “Thunder Buns” snack shop, second-graders Emily Nutt and Athena Tabb hunkered at their cardboard order counter, waiting with grins for their first customers.
Gonzales said that the students voted on the name of the city, then decided what businesses they should open and what purchases the city would need to make. They then filled out job applications for the businesses they were interested in working for.
The students also drew a map of their city, once it was set up. They also held student council elections as part of setting up their government.
There was an event planned that evening for parents to visit the city, Gonzales said.
Second-grader Kinyon Clevenger waited for customers at his rock shop. Nearby, was his red duct-tape wallet stuffed with the small green mock dollars the students were using to purchase goods and services.
Special Education Paraprofessional Dorrien Hendrickson said the students had been taught to make the wallets in an art class taught by artist Matt Hamilton.
Kinyon displayed a moon stone and a pyrite chunk from a tray holding a collection of rocks. On a table behind him, he gestured to the rocks that were for sale, that he and classmates had painted in various colors.
At the police station, if students admitted to not practicing “Life Skills,” such as caring, friendship, patience or perseverance, they got a ticket and and were put in a cardboard “jail.”
Second-grader Mallory Willard, scampered away from the jail, beaming.
She explained that the “police” had arrested her, but the handcuffs were so loose that she escaped.
“Isn’t that epic?” She asked, beaming. She then took her place as librarian, donning her vest, made from a paper bag.
Mallory said her favorite part of the city project was making everything out of cardboard, as well as making the vests.
At the tattoo shop, customers could request the design they wanted and have it drawn in washable marker on a chosen body part by students Skylar Luckey or William Bryson McAlester.
At the “U.S. Coast Guard station,” Oliver Bradley stood by to teach visitors about water safety, mostly by pointing out signs he had helped to make with the messages: “Kids Don’t Float!” and “Don’t Forget to Wear a Life Jacket!”
Second-grader Emily Volpi waited for customers behind her cardboard city bus.
When asked what the most fun part of the project was, she was quick to answer.
“Making the signs,” she said.
“Painting it,” Emily answered.
When asked what the most important thing she had learned in the community project, she was very specific about that, too.
“Cutting is hard,” she stated.
First-grader T.J. Briola said he really enjoyed drawing art for his grocery store.
His favorite field trip was their visit to A & P grocery store.
“When we were there, they gave us little treats like cookies, and froyo and some chicken and some fruits,” he said.
His favorite part of Dragon City was the movie theater, he said.
First-grader Rilynn Eastham, the town’s dentist, said she chose that job because “dentists help you stay healthy, and when you need an appointment you can sign up on your phone or call,” she said.
For her, staying organized was the big challenge of the project.
“The hardest part was kind of forgetting things, sometimes,” as she prepared for the event. Rilynn added that she was pretty excited for her parents to visit so she could show them her office.
Second-grader Kate Pader was the city’s veterinarian. She shared what her goals were as the animal doctor.
“I’m going to show people how the animals are doing, and how to help them,” she said.
She explained what she would tell a visitor who brought a dog to her.
“Maybe we could give him a checkup, and check him to see if he’s doing well,” she said.
Kate talked about why she decided to create a veterinarian business for the event.
“I love knowing about animals, and how their body is going, and I love helping them when they are sick,” she said, nodding when asked if she wanted to be a veterinarian when she’s older.
She said she’s hoping her family soon will have two dogs that she can care for all by herself. Her favorite part of being around dogs is to feed them, pet them and snuggle with them.
She said she enjoyed every field trip they went to, but especially liked learning about the police and fire departments, Haida dancing in a lesson they had in Saxman, and also how grocery stores sort their food.
Kate shared what her favorite part of the city project had been.
“Community isn’t all about buying stuff and getting stuff,” she added. “It’s all about helping people.”