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The City Journals

First-graders learn from ‘The Tale of Peter Rabbit’

Jun 05, 2017 11:04AM ● By Julie Slama

American Heritage of South Jordan first-graders perform in the school’s annual production of “The Tale of Peter Rabbit.” (Julie Slama/City Journals)

By Julie Slama | [email protected]
Since American Heritage of South Jordan began in 2005, first-graders have performed “The Tale of Peter Rabbit”each year.
But it’s more than reading and reciting lines; it’s about learning a life lesson, said teacher Alice Winkelman.
“Through learning about classic literature of ‘Peter Rabbit,’ they’re learning about making good choices and being obedient,” Winkelman said.
Learning that lesson was first-grader Zoey Johnson’s favorite part.
“I was Mrs. Rabbit, and with my line, I remind my children not to be naughty,” she said. “Flopsy, Mopsy and Cottontail didn’t go in the garden, but Peter was very naughty and squeezed under the gate. It reminds me that I need to obey my parents.”
Winkelman said that was a message she hoped her students would learn through the production.
“It’s a touching, tender story that they’re able to connect to,” she said.
Before students took the stage, decorated with Peter’s jacket, a watering can and felt garden vegetables inside a picket fence, they read several stories written by the author, Beatrix Potter. They also studied her life and what inspired her to write. Winkelman said she also shared about her visit to the author’s English home in the Lake District two years ago.
“They learned that the story began when Beatrix Potter wrote the tale for a sick child since she didn’t know what to write in a card,” she said. “She had a love for the outdoors, so walking in her garden gave me insight to her stories that are full of rabbits, birds and nature.”
First-grader Brielle Breinholt remembered learning about the story’s origins.
“I liked how she wrote it to the girl in the hospital and was the author and illustrator of her own work,” she said. “I’ve loved ‘Peter Rabbit,’ and I’ve read tons of books by Beatrix Potter. I liked the song, ‘Four Little Rabbits.’ That was the first one in the play.”
Songs and lines outlined the tale in the play. While all students wore bunny ears, to complete the costumes, the girls added aprons, and the boys wore bow ties.
Even though students recite poems monthly, it was different on stage, first-grader Giannluca Cassiano said.
“It’s hard to do in front of everyone,” she said.
To help students learn, Winkelman said they began practicing in January before their late-April performance. They read the story together and talked about it. The students also wrote in their journals about what they were learning.
Classmate Hannah Fares said it helped to sing songs at school and at home.
“My mom encouraged me to practice,” she said. “It got easier the more I did it.”
When it became time to perform, first-grader Zelda Mouritsen said learning lines and the 14 songs was worthwhile.
“When we walked onto stage, with everyone clapping, I felt important,” she said. “We weren’t just telling them the story that everyone knows, but one that is part of all of us.”
Winkelman said through the production, many of her students have become readers.
“They have the love of reading, and students who have been a part of this annual production look back at it fondly,” she said. “Their eyes shine, and they just love being part of ‘The Tale of Peter Rabbit.’”