California history is much easier to grasp when you can use a time machine and interview Father Junipero Serra himself, according to the fourth-graders in Carol Singer's class at Mariners Elementary School.
Under the leadership of parent volunteer Barry Hovis, the students portrayed figures from state history, such as Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo and Serra--who was played, appropriately, by a student named Sara.
And while Hovis tossed out questions like a game-show host, the students learned geography by marking important locations in California on a floor-sized relief map. A Mickey Mouse figurine stood on Anaheim, of course, while Los Angeles was denoted by a scale-model SigAlert of Matchbox cars.
"I liked how he has this big map and he [Hovis] made learning really fun, instead of like a boring, old social studies class," Tony Riva, 9, of Newport Beach said.
The most interesting part for 9-year-old Whitney Blue was--surprise, surprise--learning about Mt. Whitney, the tallest peak in the state at 14,495 feet. But classmate Trafford Hill, in spite of his elevated name, was partial to Badwater Basin in Death Valley--at 282 feet below sea level, the lowest spot in the nation.
Hovis, whose son, Jordan, attends Mariners, donated his time Friday. But for four years his job has been presenting this and similar school programs for the Tustin company Walk Through California. "It's a good way to teach history," Hovis said. Because the kids get involved--on Friday they proudly held forth on new vocabulary terms and leaped across the room to identify key state locations--the lessons sink in even more than those learned from a movie or field trip, he said.
Added Singer: "It just made everything come alive."