Ketchikan Charter School

Lenny Leach stands next to the display he made for his final project. Staff photo by Danelle Kelly

Viking ships, volcanos, cheetahs, Alaska seafood, and shadow puppet plays were only a few of the informative displays and presentations created by Ketchikan Charter School students for a “Core Knowledge Fair” held Thursday evening.

The school’s hallways and classrooms were buzzing with activity as students led their family members through classrooms to show off their display boards, printed reports, sculptures and illustrations they’d created to highlight lessons from the school year.

Fourth grader Haidn Lee was eager to show off his report on cheetahs, which he said he chose as a topic “because they’re my favorite animal.”

When asked why cheetahs were his favorite, he said it was because “they’re fast and good hunters.”

Lee also displayed a journal he’d filled with drawings inspired by various activities throughout the year.

Fourth grader Lenny Leach shared his thoughts about his “Cool Facts about Salmon” display. His board was filled with seafood posters, a calendar chart illustrating seafood harvest seasons, a chart stating Alaska seafood nutritional facts, and stacks of Alaska seafood recipe cards. 

Leach said, “what inspired me to do this project was my life story, pretty much, because I’ve grown up on a boat my whole life.”

He explained that he figured he may as well do a research project on the “thing that I love doing.”

He said that his family owns the tender St. Jude, and so fishing and seafood always has been part of his life. 

When asked what he enjoyed most about his assignment, he said, “honestly, just research. Being able to scroll back through time in (family) photos” was very enjoyable, he said.

The most challenging part of his project was creating an animation for his display, which Leach said his mother helped him with. 

He added that a very useful resource he found for his research was the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute, which supplied him with stickers and recipes to bolster his display. 

Third grader Riley Darrington displayed her project that highlighted the importance of recycling. She read from her report on the topic, starting with the fact that “it can take around 450 years for one plastic bottle to decompose.”

She also spoke of ways that recycling can help the earth and timber, and listed items that can be recycled. 

Then she proclaimed, “Now, my favorite part.”

Her favorite recycling idea, Darrington explained, was simply to re-use old materials to create arts and crafts, or to play with.

“The sky and your imagination is the limit,” she read from her report.

She recycles cardboard boxes herself, she said, by using them to play in at home.

In a darkened classroom near the front entrance of the school, a video of shadow puppet performances was playing. 

KCS middle school English teacher Erin Henderson explained that there were four stories that were written and voiced by her drama students, as well as acted out with shadow puppets. In addition to the video show on Thursday, there were live shadow puppet performances planned for Monday and Tuesday.

Henderson said that the stories are based on traditional Philippines folk tales: “The Battle of the Sea and Sky,” “The White Squash,” “The Moon and the Stars,” and “Mindanao.” 

A video of the performances can be found on the school’s Facebook page by searching for “Ketchikan Charter School.”

The art director for the plays was Halli Kenoyer, and KCS paraprofessional Kaila Del Rosario was the Philippines culture and language director.

Henderson said there are many students with Filipino heritage in the school who helped work on the production.

“It’s so nice to get to highlight their home culture,” Henderson said. 

As the students worked on the project, Henderson said “I tried never to give them any solutions. I would point out things they need to work on,” through editing and offering feedback, but the productions were fully student created.

Henderson said that her sixth, seventh and eighth graders all worked in mixed groups on the project. At the start of the trimester, she worked to build their skills by using “teamwork games and cooperation.”

KCS Principal Kayla Livingston said this was the first year they’ve done a live, in-person fair since the year before the COVID-19 pandemic shut down group events. Last year, the students created final projects, and staff took a video of the displays to share on the school’s website for families to view. Although the fair was in-person this year, Livingston said it was toned down some, without the usual fanfare and plates of treats for visitors to enjoy.

Livingston said that for each year’s fair, the students are allowed to pick a topic to research that caught their interest during the school year.

KCS has a student population divided into two buildings, a mitigation measure initially taken to allow more space between students when the pandemic arrived. Students from grades three through eight are housed at the Valley Park building, and students from preschool through grade two are housed at the Holy Name Elementary School building. 

On a small stairway landing at the far end of a hallway at the Holy Name school, first grader Henry Powell worked to get his realistically painted volcano to erupt. Adults were bent to the task of helping him to mix, then re-mix the lava concoction until a jubilant cry went up as the lava finally foamed over his volcano sculpture. 

When asked why he chose a volcano as his project, Powell said, “Because I like volcanos. … They make new land with all the lava, because it turns into rock, which can make the land.”

He pointed out his illustration as well, which showed a cross-section of a volcano which he had labeled with each of its parts, such as the “flowing lava,” the “vent” and the “magma.”

Also at the Holy Name building, second grader Rylee O’Sullivan showed off her display board in her classroom.

Her board was painted with an ocean, mountains, a wide rainbow, clouds and a lightning bolt next to two three-dimensional paper totem poles. 

She explained that her report was “on my culture,” as she is of Tlingit, Tsimshian and Haida heritage.

One of her totem poles featured an eagle and frog, and her other totem pole had drawings she said were her own design. One creature she said she’d left out, but that is part of her heritage is the sculpin.

“I like totem poles,” O’Sullivan said, and of her project, she said “I wanted to do it on my culture.”

She also had a report that she wrote on the totem pole in Pioneer Square in Seattle included in her project. 

When asked what the most difficult part of her project was, she said: “The painting.”