EDMOND — Students at Mercy School Institute are taking advantage of one teacher’s creative idea to promote greater interest in reading.
“If you can read, you can do anything,” said Adam Hamadeh, a second-grade student.
“It was fun; it was like we were builders.”
Second-grade teacher Lina Trad had the idea to build an igloo from recycled milk jugs in the school library.
“I saw the reading igloo in other schools around the United States,” Trad said.
She began researching how to make one, looking at online videos and finally taking the idea to students and parents, but confessed, “I am not an engineer.”
Trad had been asking local businesses to collect empty milk jugs and then turned to parents.
“That was the process that took a very long time,” she said.
“The kids were very excited to have their own place to sit and read. We want them to read more and to enjoy reading,” Mercy School Institute Principal Buthiana Jwayyed said.
The entire class took part in building the igloo. The first row was 10 feet in diameter and required 50 milk jugs. The entire igloo would require nearly 500 jugs.
“My students did an amazing job helping me, cleaning them and gluing them,” Trad said. They spent three months on the project.
Three weeks before the igloo was to be finished, Trad entered the library and discovered that it had collapsed.
“I cried; I cried a lot. But I felt like this is a good teaching moment for me to teach my students perseverance,” she said.
The group was almost finished with the igloo and had left an oculus, which they had planned to fill in, but the structure did not hold up.
Trad was not deterred by the fallen igloo and decided to rebuild it in 12 hours with the help of four friends.
“It was for the students’ sake, for them to come and see that it is OK. You pick yourself and work again and work harder, and if you set your mind and have a dream, you can make it true.”
The igloo is used by not only her class, but even by high school students who are looking for a quiet place to read, Trad said.
Her class is reading “Flat Stanley” and during spring break, began sending out their paper Flat Stanleys. One student wanted to send it to a grandmother in Syria.
With the Flat Stanley project, young people send a “flat” visitor made from paper or cardboard to a school, a celebrity, a family member, a politician or anyone of interest, and the recipient agrees to return the miniature Stanley, along with a completed journal and perhaps some souvenirs, such as postcards, photos or other special items.
“There is a lot of magical things, like lights hanging from the top; I really like that,” said Neiyemah Wright, a student in Trad’s class, about the igloo.
Students in Trad’s classes read about 1,500 books every year and average a third-grade reading level.
The students listened as Trad recently read to them about Flat Stanley in the 8-foot-wide igloo with a lighted chandelier. Only half the class can fit inside.
The other half of the class colored Flat Stanleys, which they hope will come back after being sent around the world with new messages.
Mercy School Institute is a fully accredited private Islamic school, serving kindergarten through 12th-grade students.
CAPTION: Areeba Farhan, a Mercy School Institute second-grader, walks out of a reading igloo after listening to “Flat Stanley” being read. [Photo by Eriech Tapia, for The Oklahoman]