Carbondale Middle School

 

Each fall, the 5th graders at CMS interview members of the community about times in their lives they faced big changes and challenges. Students record these interviews and use them to create metaphor and simile poems aligned with 5th grade academic standards. 

Team:

Elizabeth Busch, 5th grade language arts teacher from CMS
100 5th graders!
Renee Prince from VOICES

Time-Line:

Three weeks between Holiday Breaks
November & December

Our impact:

1. Community Connections

The interview process engaged students in a real-world, authentic way, giving them the rare opportunity to ask adults about difficult times in their lives. Likewise, community members connected to CMS in a very unique and meaningful way. 

My favorite part was meeting them [Community Storytellers] for the first time because it was like meeting the President.
— 5th grade CMS student, from evaluation survey

2. Empathy Growth

In preparation for and during the interviews, students were challenged to pay attention to their own feelings, the feelings of the Community Storytellers, and the feelings of their classmates. The writing portion of the project focused on using sensory details to connect to other's experiences through the five senses.

I felt empathy for my storyteller because it must be hard with a blind husband. I tried to imagine what it was like.
— 5th Grade CMS Student

3. Academic Standards

The following 5th grade writing standards were learning targets for this project:

  • Write narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events using effective technique, descriptive details, and clear event sequences.

  • Use narrative techniques such as dialogue, description, pacing to develop experiences and events.

  • Use concrete words and phrases and sensory details to convey experiences and events precisely.

Student writing demonstrated growth in each of these standards, but the most common improvement was student understanding and use of sensory details to "show not tell" the events and characters' feelings in their stories. 

 

Past community-member participants:

  Ricardo Zavala   A former architect in Mexico, and a former teaching assistant at Carbondale Middle School, Ricardo is currently training to become a dental assistant. His story of immigrating from Mexico to the United States, learning English, struggling against bullying, and working for four years to bring his wife and two children to Colorado was very inspiring for CMS 5th graders, many of whom share similar stories.

Ricardo Zavala

A former architect in Mexico, and a former teaching assistant at Carbondale Middle School, Ricardo is currently training to become a dental assistant. His story of immigrating from Mexico to the United States, learning English, struggling against bullying, and working for four years to bring his wife and two children to Colorado was very inspiring for CMS 5th graders, many of whom share similar stories.

  Officer Kelli Litzau   A Carbondale Police Officer, Kelli shared a story about failing her weapons test the first time she took it during training academy and how she persevered in spite of superiors who didn’t believe she was strong enough to become a cop.

Officer Kelli Litzau

A Carbondale Police Officer, Kelli shared a story about failing her weapons test the first time she took it during training academy and how she persevered in spite of superiors who didn’t believe she was strong enough to become a cop.

  Justin   Patrick   A journalist and author, Justin is the Communications Manager with Wilderness Workshop in Carbondale. Justin is also an outdoor enthusiast and ski instructor and told a story about a very stressful first day teaching ski-school.

Justin Patrick

A journalist and author, Justin is the Communications Manager with Wilderness Workshop in Carbondale. Justin is also an outdoor enthusiast and ski instructor and told a story about a very stressful first day teaching ski-school.

  JoAnne Everson Anderson   A member of Carbondale’s Senior Matters board, JoAnne shared stories of growing up on a farm in rural Minnesota, attending a one-room school house, struggling with severe eczema which forced her to move to Arizona, learning to yodel at a young age and eventually touring the world as a country western singer.

JoAnne Everson Anderson

A member of Carbondale’s Senior Matters board, JoAnne shared stories of growing up on a farm in rural Minnesota, attending a one-room school house, struggling with severe eczema which forced her to move to Arizona, learning to yodel at a young age and eventually touring the world as a country western singer.

  Gabriela Alvarez Espinoza   Gabi is from Mexico City and lives in Carbondale with her husband, Francois, who is a river engineer. She received her Master’s Degree in Physical Theatre and Dance from universities in France and is very active in the dance community in Carbondale. Gabi shared brave stories of leaving home and pursuing her dreams, even in countries where she didn’t speak the language.

Gabriela Alvarez Espinoza

Gabi is from Mexico City and lives in Carbondale with her husband, Francois, who is a river engineer. She received her Master’s Degree in Physical Theatre and Dance from universities in France and is very active in the dance community in Carbondale. Gabi shared brave stories of leaving home and pursuing her dreams, even in countries where she didn’t speak the language.

  Neal Martin   A ski-patroller and river guide, Neal shared stories of adventure! He has guided many river trips in the Grand Canyon and told stories of personal transformation as people faced their fears on the river.

Neal Martin

A ski-patroller and river guide, Neal shared stories of adventure! He has guided many river trips in the Grand Canyon and told stories of personal transformation as people faced their fears on the river.

  Patty Fox   Patty shared stories about family, farming, and teaching. She started the Waldorf School on the Roaring Fork when her two children were young and is currently running a small family farm in Woody Creek. At the age of 70, her life has been very full - she shared stories of living on a sailboat, learning how to farm, and losing her husband to cancer. Her openness and candor helped students ask very in-depth questions.

Patty Fox

Patty shared stories about family, farming, and teaching. She started the Waldorf School on the Roaring Fork when her two children were young and is currently running a small family farm in Woody Creek. At the age of 70, her life has been very full - she shared stories of living on a sailboat, learning how to farm, and losing her husband to cancer. Her openness and candor helped students ask very in-depth questions.

  Officer Michael Zimmerman   Officer Zimmerman, a long-time Carbondale Police Officer and School Resources Liaison, joined our project the year before his retirement. He shared a story about a genetic condition that is causing him to go blind and talked about his future plans taking care of horses on his ranch. He also relayed many detail-packed stories from his time as a police officer, and all of them highlighted his dedication to public service and kindness.

Officer Michael Zimmerman

Officer Zimmerman, a long-time Carbondale Police Officer and School Resources Liaison, joined our project the year before his retirement. He shared a story about a genetic condition that is causing him to go blind and talked about his future plans taking care of horses on his ranch. He also relayed many detail-packed stories from his time as a police officer, and all of them highlighted his dedication to public service and kindness.

 

Partner with us

We can design a Storyteller Project to meet the needs of your school, classroom, or community organization. Contact us: renee@amplifyingvoices.org