2018-04-05 / News

Where are you going, where have you been?

Military students use maps to locate former homes
BY RYAN GIBBS


Melrose School principal Carrie Petersen tosses a globe-inspired beach ball to military students Tuesday. She then marked the favorite places where their parents have been stationed. Melrose School principal Carrie Petersen tosses a globe-inspired beach ball to military students Tuesday. She then marked the favorite places where their parents have been stationed. Military students at Melrose School had the whole world in their hands Tuesday morning.

The children of service personnel, which number 83 at the elementary school, located the favorite places they have lived during their family’s travels on a beach ball designed as a globe. The activity was part of the Month of the Military Child, a federal initiative that is celebrated by the district every April.

This was the first time Melrose principal Carrie Petersen has chosen a 3-D representation of the Earth opposed to a flat map.

“It is a map, but it’s a portable one,” she said. “It will be more interactive and fun.”

Petersen, who introduced the blue ball during lunch period, helped the students locate where they had lived. Many of the kindergartners chose Jamestown as their favorite place, but there also were a few claims made for Hawaii, Alaska and Iowa.

On a map hanging in the Lawn School cafeteria, eighth-grader William Sellers marks all of the places he’s lived. PHOTOS BY ANDREA VON HOHENLEITEN On a map hanging in the Lawn School cafeteria, eighth-grader William Sellers marks all of the places he’s lived. PHOTOS BY ANDREA VON HOHENLEITEN “It’s really neat to see the diversity of all the places that the children have been,” Petersen said. “This interactive lunch assembly allows all kids to cheer for each other. I think it’s just really neat to name places. It’s a geography lesson, but also celebrates military children.”

Fourth-grader Tad Woolfe, whose father is in the U.S. Air Force, has lived in California, Kansas, Thailand and Singapore, but picked Japan as his favorite temporary home.

“Learning new stuff and eating new foods is fun,” he said of his time in the Land of the Rising Sun.

Tad moved to town eight months ago. In that time, he has fallen in love with the bay that surrounds his new hometown. “It’s fun to look at,” he said. “I wake up and see the water.”

Tad’s classmate, Amelia Marlowe, whose father also is in the Air Force, also moved to the island last summer. She named the nation’s capital as her favorite place, edging the United Kingdom, Idaho and Maryland, where she was born.

“It’s really pretty and there’s a lot of fun activities there,” she said of Washington, D.C.

Amelia said it took about three weeks to get acclimated to Rhode Island, which is longer than it took her to get settled at other locations. She has since adjusted to the coastal community.

“I like to go the beach a lot,” she said. “The places are really fun and different. I don’t know why. They just look different.”

Unlike Melrose, Lawn students were using traditional maps for their version of the activity. The 55 older children were asked to mark every place they have lived, opposed to just their favorites. The answers ranged from Guam to Russia to the western African country Burkina Faso.

“It never gets old,” principal Nate Edmunds said. “It’s really amazing where these kids have been, and the stories those maps help start. I think we’re very welcoming here and I think that helps to include them. I really do feel that they’re just ingrained, and to celebrate them just becomes part of what we do here at the Lawn School.”

Eighth-grader William Sellers arrived in Jamestown last year from Columbus, Ga., and has also lived in Texas, Kansas and North Carolina. He said it took him about a month to get used to Rhode Island weather. This was the first time he’s experienced a real New England winter.

“There was a lot of snow,” he said. “It was a new experience.”

Fellow eighth-grader Moira Flannery is the daughter of a U.S. Marine who has lived in town for about a year after transferring from Kaneohe Bay in Hawaii. Moira misses the Aloha State, which she said shines because of its “weather, people and amazing beaches.”

Her favorite part about her newest island home is the sense of community. Since arriving, Moira said, the townspeople have made her family feel welcome.

“Because there are a lot of military that come in and out, they understand where you’re coming from,” she said.

Living in Jamestown has been a transition for Moira because it’s the first time in years she isn’t living directly on a military base. By the end of her first day in Rhode Island, however, she had already become friends with one of her soon-to-be classmates.

Edmunds said he has heard of several long-lasting friendships forged between military children and permanent residents. He noted some Jamestowners have traveled across the country to reunite with their friends after they move to a new assignment.

Marge Johnson, the student assistance counselor at Lawn, said friendships also form among military children. If one military student is heading to a city or base where another already has been, there will plenty of helpful tips shared between them. This is one way the map connects these students.

“It gives them an audience for their life,” Johnson said.

The map will hang in the cafeteria for the entirety of April, a month that will host a slate full of activities to celebrate the Month of the Military Child. For example, parents of military children are invited to eat lunch with their kids in the cafeterias at both buildings all month long.

Also, an appreciation ceremony for the military community is scheduled for 1:30 p.m. April 13 at the middle school. All students from kindergarten through eighth grade will attend the assembly, which falls on “Purple Up Day,” in which the entire community will be encouraged to dress in purple to support the military.

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