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IN THE CLASSROOM:

Two fifth-grade Christopher Columbuses were butting heads over their birth dates.

One, Joshua Arevalo, argued that the exact day was unclear, according to undisclosed online sources.

The other, Vazgen Barsegian, claimed that his research showed Oct. 31, 1451 was the day the explorer entered the world.

When the two moved on, leaving the birth dates unsettled, another Columbus impersonator chimed in to quiz Vazgen on which ship the Spaniard first sailed on.

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“The Santa Maria,” he said, an answer that was confirmed with nods from onlookers.

Similar back-and-forths played out Thursday throughout a fifth-grade classroom at R.D. White Elementary School, where students had prepared presentations about famous explorers they had researched.

“It’s important when they share information and they learn from each other,” teacher Narine Ambartsumyan said of the discussions that had grown out of the take-home assignments. “They can evaluate each other, and they can agree to disagree and provide their arguments and evidence.”

Using information from books and online sources, each child took on the role of their chosen subjects to offer first-person accounts of their travels to other members of the class.

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The students had also crafted treasure chests — out of shoe boxes and plywood — in which they had placed representations of their explorers’ travels, including coins, jewels and ornaments.

Some students had dressed up to imitate their adopted explorers, with a pair holding baby dolls in slings, to represent Native American explorer Sacagawea and the infant son she carried across the continent with Meriwether Lewis and William Clark.

Some wore belts over their shoulders and improvised sailor hats to mimic Columbus, who was by far the most popular explorer taken on by the students.

Presenters took different approaches to reporting on their explorers, with some focusing on personal histories and others chronicling a timeline of exploration.

Pedrum Ghaibi enjoyed learning about Columbus, but, unlike most of his peers, he discussed the Spaniard’s dark history, which he had stumbled upon during his research, he said.

Columbus had captured 25 indigenous people during one North American expedition and shipped them back to Europe, with only eight surviving the journey.

“I think that was sad because that was their habitat, and he stole them for the queen,” Pedrum said.

The assignment was unique, students said, because they had the opportunity to learn about explorers from other resources than a simple classroom textbook.

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“It was fun,” Inelle Gonzalez said. “It takes a lot of research on the Internet.”

KIDS TALK BACK

The Glendale News-Press visited a fifth-grade class at R.D. White Elementary School and asked students who were presenting to classmates about famous explorers, “What was special about your explorer?”

“Christopher Columbus — he discovered America. He’s strong and brave, and he traveled four times on the same island, without any tracking devices.”

MARCUS ENFIAJAN, 11

Glendale

“My explorer was Sacagawea, and what I liked best about her was probably that she was strong. Like when she was kidnapped, she went through it.”

LORA HAYTAIAN, 10

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Glendale

“My explorer was Christopher Columbus, and I like the way he survived past the adventures and found treasures.”

VAZGEN BARSEGIAN, 11

Glendale

“My explorer was Sacagawea, and I liked that she was independent, and she was strong when she was taken away from her family.”

MIRANDA KELLEY, 10

Glendale

“I liked that [Columbus] sailed four times across the ocean because the seas are probably really rough.”

SABRINA EPHREM, 11

Glendale


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