By Molly McGowan
Shrieks of excitement and the patter of eager feet filled the hallways of area schools as teachers led their young students to different speakers and activities last Thursday.
Nov. 18 marked the annual Great American Teach-In, a day during which a wide range of professionals bring their careers to the classroom and share different employment opportunities with students.
At McKitrick Elementary School in Lutz, students began a day early with a visiting armored truck on Wednesday, followed by a Drug Enforcement Administration truck on Thursday. Agents from the Tampa District DEA explained that the truck is used for support in dismantling clandestine labs and showed the children the truck’s first aid equipment, air pressure hoses and shower, as well as their entry equipment, tactical vests and helmets.
The rest of the school was buzzing with different activities, as well. Nearby, soccer player Rafael Giraldo taught Cheri Gamm’s and Liisa DiTarando’s kindergarten classes the basics of the game and set up a scrimmage, while fifth-grader Abby Sutch directed speakers to the correct classrooms. Her favorite speaker was a dentist who had her class smell and eat different things to demonstrate how scent changes the taste of food.
Guidance Counselor Kelly Goforth said her favorite memories of the days’ events came whenever the children become inquisitive. “The kids were … asking questions you and I wouldn’t think of,” Goforth said. “They’re so outside the box.”
Students at Denham Oaks Elementary also stayed active, particularly a group of kindergarteners and first-graders who got their own personal trainers for a day.
Biko Claxton, Denny Locascio and Daniel Peterson from Sports and Field athletic club shared tips for eating healthy then took the children outside for some exercise. The students, who collectively named themselves “Team Alakazam,” competed in relays followed by a few sets of pushups.
“C’mon, let’s see your speed,” encouraged Peterson, while the children ran sprints.
Ready for a rest, the students filed back into a classroom for a visit with Deputy Tobias Smith, who has been working at the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office for the past 16 years.
Smith listed his history working in a jail, on patrol and on special projects, and explained some of the training and other requirements necessary to become an officer.
Good driving records and college degrees seemed to be too distant to Smith’s young audience whose attention was immediately drawn to his gun. Smith explained that his gun was just one part of his uniform and proceeded to point out the details on what he was wearing. And the instant the shiny, silver handcuffs came out, Smith had won the crowd.
At Lutz Elementary, students were similarly intrigued by what Dan Harrison was holding. Visiting from Tampa Guitar, Harrison was showing a fourth grade class the basics of playing guitar. He began by asking the students a few questions, and was impressed when many knew the difference between acoustic and electric guitars.
Harrison showed them what “fretting a note” was, then let his fingers slither across the fret board to show that chords were “a bunch of different pitches being put together.” With a few more examples and instructions on how to hold a pick, fourth-grader John Anthony Perrone got to strum a few chords on the guitar before Harrison continued his lesson, showing the children just what 10 years of dedication to a craft can create.
A little further away at New River Elementary School, members of the Wesley Chapel Athletic Association were outside showing kindergarteners, first- and second-graders the basics of lacrosse outside, while inside a cosmetologist from a JCPenney Salon shocked students with the news that they each had 100,000 hairs on their head.
At Double Branch Elementary School, the horses of Pasco County Sheriff’s Mounted Posse towered above enraptured second- and third-graders, who learned that the most important jobs of the horses and their riders are search and rescue missions.
Pre-K students at Chester W. Taylor Elementary School learned that horses come in smaller sizes, too. Bakas Horses for Handicapped brought miniature horse Buddy to the school to teach children the proper way to care for a horse, and to show that regardless of size, horses can be therapeutic.
With a multitude of speakers visiting different schools in Hillsborough and Pasco counties on Thursday, and with such a variety of classes and grades within every school, each student participating in the Great American Teach In was sure to have an individual experience unlike any other child’s. But regardless of whether they saw a miniature horse or a draft horse, ran relays or played lacrosse, every child learned something on Thursday. They learned that everyone is good at something. That thousands of career possibilities exist. And that they can be — and do — anything.