Wolfle’s reward is a real gem

KINGSTON — Geographically speaking, the students of Wolfle Elementary have a gift to give to the future.

Wolfle students showed up in force at the 22nd annual Fall Festival of the Gems, Nov. 22-23, and by doing so they won a prized educational tool: A 25 by 31 inch display case stocked with 30 varieties of gems, fossils, minerals and rocks.

For the last three showings of the festivals of the gems a display case has been awarded to the school with the highest number of students in attendance. Students in schools from the North Kitsap, Bainbridge Island, Central Kitsap, South Kitsap or Mason school districts attend the event.

Central Kitsap schools have won the last two years.

Mike Heesacker, a former festival chair-showman who has a passion for educating youth, said he’s been asked several times to be a guest speaker at schools. He couldn’t believe the “little chips of a rock,” teachers were using to teach students about the numerous rock, mineral and fossil varieties found in the state.

The lack of quality hands-on materials motivated Heesacker to launch the case giveaway.

“Now they can actually really see a big hunk of rock,” Heesacker said with excitement. “(The case) is providing schools with a new educational tool that will be with them longer than the students and teachers will be with them.”

Winning the case, which has yet to be delivered, actually fits in perfectly with Wolfle’s third and fourth grade curriculum.

Third-graders study rocks and minerals and fourth-grades learn all about Washington state, including geology and geography.

A few weeks before the festival, Kelley Daniels’ fourth grade class was learning about glaciers, volcanoes, subduction and mountain ranges. She invited Bev Beasley, who’s a member of the Kitsap Mineral and Gem society and has a background in geology, to speak with her class.

Beasley got Daniels’ students jazzed about attending the show and Daniels thought the show would be the perfect bridge between what they were learning in class and seeing, touching and experiencing it themselves.

A combination of the two helped push Wolfle’s attendance to be highest at 22 students.

“I think it’s very exciting these kids have shown a commitment to their learning that goes beyond the walls of their school,” Daniels said in response to Wolfle’s showing at the festival. “That’s what I hope for the kids, they take what they learn here and apply it elsewhere because that’s what real learning is: something you can take with you.”

Daniels said when the students learned they’d won the case they were very excited and erupted in applause, and then all had a story to share about their experience at the festival.

Staff at Wolfle aren’t sure where the case will be kept, but it will be in a place where all the students can enjoy its treasures.

“It really is a great resource,” Daniels said. “It’s not just like a trophy. It’s something the kids can look at and learn from.”

A total of 336 students attended the festival, and 125 were from NKSD. Of all the districts in attendance the top three schools with the highest attendance were from NKSD, Wolfle Elementary, Poulsbo Elementary and Poulsbo Middle.

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