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Elevation Education By Way of Cape Hangnail

Sixth-graders’ study of landforms had them traversing the Island of Podiatry by way of Bunion Strait, Blister Delta and the Isthmus of Lint. Afterward, the Mill Creek Middle schoolers got to plot their own island next door. And boy did they.

Braylon Becker dreamed up the Land of Nasty, where visitors would find Callous Range surrounding the Dead Skin Delta. He insisted he’s learning landforms better because he gets to make up goofy names.

A little gross, a lot of learning: Teacher Marianne French said the Podiatry Island lesson is a perfect way to keep students engaged before winter break

“I have to know if a plain is in a higher or more of a lower elevation,” Braylon said. “And that a river only flows in one direction, which is toward a larger body of water.”

Tamyah Yarbrough had another take. Having recently adopted a pup named Leo, her mind was on all things canine. So the name of Tamyah’s Island: Dog. Complete with an erupting dogcano and Shepherd Falls, surrounded by the Pug Sea.

Teacher Marianne French began the lesson by creating a narrative for students in order to study the fictional foot-shaped island in the Pacific Ocean.

The premise, she wrote, was that the U.S. Department of Geography had begun exploring Podiatry Island. But the department’s budget was running low, so they were enlisting the sixth-graders to finish what had been started, then to explore and map the neighboring island to the east.

The goal was for students to use their knowledge of how landforms affect one another, and to properly place and name 20 other landforms there. The island lesson builds on the sixth-graders’ previous study of latitude and longitude.

“You would think it’s obvious, but you wouldn’t put an iceberg next to a desert, or if their island is in the Arctic they wouldn’t have a tropical beach,” French said.

“We do so many things that we have to do. I like to incorporate something in every unit that gives them the opportunity to do something very creative.”


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Morgan Jarema
Morgan Jarema
Morgan Jarema is a Grand Rapids native and a product of Grand Rapids Public Schools, including Brookside and West Leonard elementaries, City Middle/High School and Ottawa Hills. She found her tribe in journalism in 1997 and has never wanted to do anything but write. For 15 years she was a freelance journalist for The Grand Rapids Press, covering local schools and government, religion, business, home & garden and lifestyles. She and her husband, John, think even those without kiddos should be invested in their local schools and made to feel a part of them. Read Morgan's full bio or email Morgan.


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