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Combining Christmas with history lesson

December 21, 2012
Emily Siegmon - News Staff Writer , The Alpena News

ALPENA - The Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary education team spent an entire week visiting different third and fourth grade classes in Alpena and Alcona, offering students a hands-on learning activity. Stephanie Gandulla, media and outreach coordinator, said the Christmas Tree Ship program is a unique read-aloud story, filled with detective work for students.

"All of the students use different primary source materials, newspapers, records, historic photos, to decide what parts of the story are factual, or a folk tale," Sarah Waters, education and outreach coordinator, said.

According to Waters, this is the third year the sanctuary team has offered the free program to different area schools. She said, this year 250 third- and fourth-graders participated in the Christmas Tree Ship program from Alpena and Alcona schools.

"It's a fun story about the Rouse Simmons Schooner. It takes place in Lake Michigan, but we also talk about shipwrecks throughout the Great Lakes," Waters said. "There are both fact and fiction elements to the story, but it was based on a true story that became embellished over time. Now, it's up to students to investigate facts from fiction."

Bingham Arts Academy fourth-graders from Jackie Alexander's class participated in the event on Wednesday while preparing to celebrate the holidays.

"The sanctuary sent an email saying the program was available, I quickly responded to have them come in and do the project at our school," Alexander said. " I thought it would be a wonderful opportunity for students to incorporate the ship project with the holidays. We couldn't be more excited for them to be here."

Emily Siegmon can be reached via e-mail at or by phone at 358-5687.



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