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A great teacher can make a book come alive. And, when great schools have the opportunity, they can deliver a literary experience that takes root in youth and uplifts a community. 

At Amelia Earhart in late February, teachers launched their age-appropriate texts together and experience-aligned, experiential, project-based units all about the experiences of formerly enslaved people on the Underground Railroad. 

The Earhart Learning Community cultivates a culture of literacy by immersing students in grade-level books, fostering a lifelong habit of reading. This whole-school initiative involves students, teachers, parents, and community members engaging in shared reading experiences, leading to meaningful discussions that inspire critical thinking and comprehension, ultimately recognizing and showcasing students’ literacy achievements. These experiences, on the whole, aim to foster a community of readers.

With these books, all students are reading about and completing regular projects related to the Underground Railroad: 1st, 2nd, and 3rd graders are reading Follow the Drinking Gourd by Jeanette Winter, and older grades are reading What Was the Underground Railroad? by Yona Zeldis McDonough.

Students across grade levels built background knowledge for their books at the book launch. Younger grades, for example, listened to the song “Follow the Drinking Gourd” and watched music history videos related to the Underground Railroad; they learned that songs acted as a signal and guide for formerly enslaved people on the run. 

Older students illustrated log cabin designs used by those harboring and protecting formerly enslaved people, who used their log cabins to deliver signals to enslaved people on the Underground Railroad. 


Experiences like these are difficult to deliver; they require much planning and research to land successfully. More challenging is creating these shared units on a budget. Luckily, we have Earhart Reading Society committee members willing to apply for grants on behalf of the school. 

Next year’s Reading Society books, for example, will be largely funded by the Cyprus Credit Union’s eight mini-grants, given to eight teachers who applied for the grant: LeAnne Arnold, Natalie Alles, Macey Schlepp, Rachel Kovacs, Lydia Fabian, Erika Yellowhair, Janett Roberts, and Kayleen Dewey.  These eight teachers earned the grants from Cyprus Credit Union, receiving 2,000 dollars for books and book-related projects next year.

To repeat our introduction, a great teacher can make a book come alive. And, by the hands of eight teachers and the support of a school, Amelia Earhart Elementary is creating a literary experience that takes root in our youth. We thank Cyprus Credit Union for their generous mini grant contributions, and thank the many teachers and staff who make up Amelia Earhart Elementary for enriching our student’s lives and uplifting our community.

Keep an eye out for next year’s books, and an article on the commemorative day when Cyprus Credit Union will visit Amelia Earhart Elementary to deliver their awards.

Spencer Tuinei
  • Communication Specialist
  • Spencer Tuinei