Home Local News Hamlet Middle School Sixth Graders “Hatchet” Away in the Classroom

Hamlet Middle School Sixth Graders “Hatchet” Away in the Classroom

Several sixth grade students at Hamlet Middle School show off the shelter they built during a recent STEAM activity on the novel "Hatchet".
Photo courtesy of Alexandra Garnder.

HAMLET – Richmond County Schools is all about implementing 21st Century learning skills within its classrooms all across the district. Whether its through collaboration, communication, critical thinking and creativity, RCS students are benefiting from the districts initiative.

What’s unique about helping students become 21st century learners is that it’s about more than having students learn and practice skills in a classroom based on the standards. Instead, it challenges students to problem solve and think critically.

At Hamlet Middle School, under the leadership of Principal Karen Allen, the staff prides itself on taking learning to the next level through multiple methods including the use of technology, interactive lessons, small groups, distributive summarizing, writing to learn, and much more.

One way teachers help students understand their material is by spacing curriculum events throughout the school calendar that help students connect to their subjects and current topics of discussion.

On Thursday October 19, sixth graders at HMS participated in what the teachers called “Hatchet Day.”

For their first novel of the schoolyear, sixth grade students have been reading Hatchet by Gary Paulsen in their English Language Arts classes. In order to help students relate to the classic young adult fiction novel, the teachers, administration, and school board member Jerry Ethridge came together to create STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics), survival, and writing assignments that helped bring Brian’s, the main character, experience to life.

Students had five stations to cycle through which included:

Adaptation: Using the new educational app Goosechase, students had to adapt to whatever was asked of their group such as find food or shelter.

Navigation: This was a team-building skill helping students create relationships. Without stepping off of a log, students had to order themselves by birthdays, navigating their way and using their problem-solving skills to figure out how they could move without falling off.


Fire: School Board member Jerry Ethridge helped the students learn how to make a fire in order to survive in the wild.

Natural Disaster: This was an egg drop STEAM activity where students tried to find what different items best allowed a fragile egg to withstand a very tall drop.

Cave: Students had to come together to build the best shelter they could with what little was provided for them while understanding the order of which parts of the shelter must be built first.

Once students were back in the classroom students had a graphic organizer assignment helping them to sort through comparisons, theme, plot, setting, and other literary elements crucial to achieving growth during this school year.

The curriculum event was interdisciplinary in that it helped the ELA content intertwine with social studies, math, and science.

“This event provides a deeper understanding of what Brian went through in order to survive the Canadian wilderness with only the clothes on his back and the hatchet,” said sixth grade ELA teacher Melissa Briggs. “It also helps the students start thinking out of the box.”  

Briggs explained that creating a curriculum event such as this one not only helps make what the students learn in the classroom more fun, but also, “forces them to problem solve with only the resources they have available to them.”

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