College of Education > News and Publications > 2016: 10-12 news > Student teacher's project combines Veterans Day, social studies and ice hockey

Student teacher's project combines Veterans Day, social studies and ice hockey

Gabrielle Pulito completed her student-teaching assignment at Wingate Elementary School in the Bald Eagle Area School District on Nov. 14. Her next stop is New Zealand for a short-session teaching stint in Auckland beginning Nov. 16. But first she had to complete a required curriculum unit project, and for 2-1/2 weeks she meshed social studies with Veterans Day as well as tie-ins to community workers and helpers, the Penn State community and a field trip to a Penn State women’s ice hockey game.

Elementary teachers have to know a lot of things about a lot of things. Their lesson plans resemble short stories; their work day is equal parts instructor, adviser, inventor and observer.

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Gabrielle Pulito, left, shares a laugh with her kindergarten students at Pegula Ice Arena.
Add project designer to the list of Gabrielle Pulito, a resident of Glastonbury, Connecticut, who is a Childhood and Early Adolescent Education (CEAE) major also studying to earn a master’s in special education in the College of Education’s Integrated Undergraduate/Graduate (IUG) Program at Penn State.

Pulito completed her student-teaching assignment at Wingate Elementary School in the Bald Eagle Area School District on Nov. 14. Her next stop is New Zealand for a short-session teaching stint in Auckland beginning Nov. 16. But first she had to complete a required curriculum unit project, and for 2-1/2 weeks she meshed social studies with Veterans Day as well as tie-ins to community workers and helpers, the Penn State community and a Penn State athletic team.

The project culminated in a kindergarten class trip to the Nov. 11 women’s hockey game between Penn State and Lindenwood at Pegula Ice Arena.

There was a Veterans Day-themed assembly at the elementary school, but Pulito set up her own hands-on teaching moment at Pegula with three tables of various Veterans Day crafts. “We’re Bald Eagle, so we’re making hand prints of our own eagles and what it represents. And we’re making paper bag veterans – with paper bags and paper plates and using it as a puppet or as a craft,’’ Pulito said.

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Gabrielle Pulito, left, chats with her student-teaching supervisor, Kate Sillman, center, and Alicia McDyre, program manager for Childhood and Early Adolescent Education.
There was also a pregame scavenger hunt as well as a table for other activities and people offering face-painting. Her students also were able to shoot balls into a blow-up hockey goal with mini hockey sticks fit for someone of their small stature, and each student received a Penn State women’s hockey backpack

The entire project was a lesson in coordination. “I wanted to tie in education with sports – two of my passions – so when I thought of the community thing, I thought maybe the kids could come (to the game),’’ said Pulito, who is in her fourth year as an athletic intern specializing in women’s hockey.

Part of it also included at least one Penn State women’s hockey player going to Wingate to read to Pulito’s kindergartners. And, a number of Penn State players met with the young students after their Nov. 11 game while they sat on the team benches at rinkside exchanging high-fives, a few hugs and a lot of smiles.

As a member of the Hockey Management Association, Pulito is in charge of the ice crew – a group of students on skates who skim snow and ice shavings off the Pegula surface during timeouts at Penn State men’s and women’s hockey games – and also handles some marketing for the team, has game-day operations duties and helps the visiting team’s liaison. “It’s been awesome,’’ Pulito said.

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Kindergarten students in the Bald Eagle Area School District meet with Penn State women's hockey players on Nov. 11.
But she’s a teacher first, and she’s found her niche. “When I first realized my placement was in kindergarten last spring, I was so nervous,’’ Pulito said. “I wanted like the second or third grade, a little bit more middle elementary. But then I started at Wingate and absolutely fell in love with kindergarten.

“The crafts aspect and really being like the steppingstone to a child’s education has been really amazing. I do love it. I got into special education, too, took a couple of classes and decided I wanted to get the minor and do the masters.’’

She’s also involved with Teaching Elementary Science Leadership Academy (TESLA) and works directly with Penn State science in education along with Discovery Space, a children’s museum in downtown State College. “I always kind of loved math and science and that gets you to do a lot more science in the classroom. That’s a struggle in the elementary years, to get more involved in science,’’ Pulito said.

But now it’s off on a 32-hour trip half way around the world to New Zealand for Pulito. She’ll leave the kindergarten classroom and instead help instruct fifth-graders until Christmas week. That is the onset of summer in New Zealand, which means Pulito will be there for the final weeks of the academic year. She is being shuttled from the airport directly to her new school. “I’m like, ‘oh my gosh, I’m going to be so tired; I don’t want this to be my first impression,’’’ Pulito said.

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Penn State women's hockey player Aly Hardy meets with Bald Eagle Area kindergarten students at Pegula Ice Arena on Nov. 11.
She’ll be staying with the school’s vice-principal, and her principal has provided an academic itinerary. “I’m going to be able to go to kindergarten through sixth grade and spend time in each of the classrooms and get to view the culture and get to see their education plans, their curriculum. It’s more of a snippet versus more like me full-time teaching,’’ she said.

She’ll stay in touch with her student teaching supervisor, Kate Sillman, through periodic blogging and Skype. “She (Sillman) wants me to take the time to experience the culture,’’ Pulito said.

Alicia McDyre, program manager for Childhood and Early Adolescent Education in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction, said students interested in studying abroad must do 12 weeks of student teaching in a local area to meet Pennsylvania Department of Education standards. “Then they can go do the rest,’’ she said. “Students who come back and talk about that have many other experiences to add into our discussions about what education looks like in different places and they can apply what they’ve learned here to other areas.’’

McDyre said she visited a school in Clearfield last year where one of the student teachers was studying abroad after spending 12 weeks in the classroom. “She was Skyping in with her classroom that she had been with,’’ McDyre said.

“I believe she was in Italy and was relaying information back and forth to the students, and she had some of the students in Italy on the Skype call with her so they were talking to the students in Clearfield. It was very cool.’’

Jim Carlson (November 2016)