A GALLERY WALL, personalized certificates, a rap song and a surprise visit from honored guests -- the men's basketball team from Western Maryland College -- were a few of the highlights of Tuesday's "Slam Dunk" Hall of Fame at Mount Airy Elementary School.
The program was a culminating activity for third-grade pupils. A yearlong writing program encouraged students to improve their writing with thought, detail, extension and elaboration. Instead of a letter grade, pupils scored their writing in terms of a "slam dunk."
The idea was a collaboration between physical education teacher Robin Townsend, language arts specialist Phyllis Sonnenleiter and third-grade teachers Annie Blonkowski and Eileen Himes.
The teachers credit Robert Moton Elementary teacher Donn Hicks with the idea of using the term "slam dunk" as a teaching tool, a concept he had been using with success in his classroom.
Elaborating on Hicks' idea, Townsend enlisted the help of the college basketball team to act as mentors for the children.
Players visited the school in November, when they demonstrated skills and spoke to the children about how slam dunks are scored during the NBA Slam Dunk Championships.
The players urged the children to make the same connection in writing. Pupils were encouraged to ensure that their writing was the best it could be by planning, paying attention to details, adding flair and style and practicing.
The third-graders have been working on writing skills in each of their special area classes -- art, media, music and physical education. Papers completed as part of this project that were scored a slam dunk were displayed on a "gallery" wall during Tuesday's event.
Children also were presented with a certificate with their picture, personal information and two all-star attributes that they thought best described themselves.
Parent volunteer Jack Colson photographed each child with a basketball for the certificates.
Assistant WMC basketball coach Kevin Selby and players Brian Billman, Brian Tombs, Will Marshall, Paddy Taylor, Jack Kowalik, Mike Furey and Karl Friedheim helped the children celebrate.
The players spoke about how the children have made a !c connection over the months between a slam dunk and putting extra effort into writing.
Townsend was especially pleased with the bond the children formed with the players.
"The benefits are endless," said Townsend. "The young men from WMC have become role models for the kids."
The children presented a plaque and sang a "Slam Dunk Rap" to the players in appreciation for their support of the program.
"All year long we've had a plan, to read and write the best we can," the third-graders sang. "When we write we'll elaborate, our work will make us celebrate."
Middle school drama
A garden hidden behind high walls and a locked gate provide the perfect setting for a budding friendship between two lonely children in Mount Airy Middle School's production of "The Secret Garden."
The drama club will perform the musical drama at 7 p.m. today and tomorrow in the school's gymnasium, 102 Watersville Road.
The two-act play is directed by eighth-grader Lindsey Schwartz. After acting in previous school plays, Lindsey is taking her first role as director. Confident that the show will appeal to all ages, she says the play offers a little bit of everything -- "happy, sad and mysterious."
Written by Tim Kelly with music and lyrics by Bill Francoeur, the play tells the story of Mary, a spoiled, orphaned girl who is sent to live with her Uncle Archibald in England.
There, she befriends Colin, a lonely, sickly boy. The garden becomes their secret meeting place while providing a refuge from the outside world.
"A total brat" is how Jenn Klem describes her character, Mary. In her second year with the drama club, Jenn was thrilled to be cast in the lead role: "I like being on stage and the center of attention."
The part of Colin is played by Amy VanSant. Being cast in a male role is fine with the seventh-grader, who aspires to act on Broadway.
Library-media specialist Tim Whitney will make his acting debut as Archibald. Appreciative of all that goes into the production of a play, Whitney is the only adult in the cast.
Kelly DaCosta plays the part of the motherly Mrs. Sowerby. Mean "sourpuss" Mrs. Medlock is played by Mallory Sutphin.
Tickets, props, music, publicity and sales are among the production details Jenn Nagle handles as play coordinator.
With more than 50 costumes to design and sew, seamstresses Carol Klem and Midge Freitag, Jenn Klem's mother and grandmother, plan to work right up to the last minute making final adjustments and emergency repairs to the period costumes.
In his fourth year as head of the drama club, language arts teacher Bill Price is proud of his pupils. "The kids make the show," said Price. "As of May 1, my job is over."
Tickets are $3 and may be purchased at the door. A portion of the proceeds will be donated to Ronald McDonald House.
Christy Kruhm's Southwest Neighbors column appears each Friday in the Carroll County edition of The Sun.
Pub Date: 5/01/98