Second-graders at Woodville School have been very busy lately — in fact, they’ve been swamped. For the past several weeks, students have been rehearsing for a musical production that celebrates the critters found in their own backyards. “Swamped” is a send-up of all things boggy, and the lyrics in the opening song extol “we’ve got crickets ’n’ birds ’n’ dragonflies, it’s true. You might see a butterfly too. But you better watch out for that lazy alligator! He might take a bite outta you!”
Students didn’t have to look far for inspiration. Most Woodville residents have firsthand experience with these kinds of creatures due to the close proximity to the St. Marks Wildlife Refuge and Trail. The trail, which lies just a few hundred yards from the school, follows the route of Florida’s first and oldest railroad, which began operations in 1836. In 1983, it was converted into a recreational trail that leads directly to the National Wildlife Refuge, which is home to a wide diversity of plants and animals.
Dating back nearly as far as the railroad, Woodville school was originally established in 1856 as Leon County’s first public school. In the 160 years that have followed, the school has evolved to meet the changing needs of the population and provides programming focused on history and the natural treasures of the area.
Jennifer Thrasher, Woodville’s music teacher, is making her own contributions to these educational efforts. Though this is her first year as a faculty member at Woodville, she has 16 years of music education experience under her belt and has taught all over the country. Because of her veteran status as a music teacher, she was confident in the ambitious plan of putting on a grade-level production, just weeks after school began.
“These programs can be overwhelming,” Thrasher said, “but once you figure out a pattern and what works for you and how to get all the kids on board, then you’re able to tackle more programs. That’s when experience comes into play.”
Thrasher encouraged cast members to try their hand at costume design and many translated that into a collaborative family exercise. “It’s great to have students and parents working together on a costume because they can discuss what they’re learning. It’s more interaction and involvement with the education process. The parents really stepped up.” Additional support was provided by Woodville’s art teacher, Sally Ash, who worked with students to create all of the set pieces.
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