Teacher uses Mardi Gras for lessons about geography, history (Video)
Purple, green and yellow streamers dangled from the second-grade teacher's door, inviting students to learn about a time-honored tradition: Fat Tuesday.
Sandra Hartley said she uses the holiday as a way to enrich the students' curriculum with geographic and historical facts.
"Parts of it are part of Bible study, language, grammar and all that," Hartley said. "It's also a good way to show the students the difference between giving something up for Lent and how there are other people around the world actually suffering without the things they need."
She enjoys using the holiday to enlighten her students with the hardships of third-world communities.
"I like teaching them things that are off the grid," Hartley said. "At a private school, I go and say a couple of extra sentences without having to worry about CSCOPE."
CSCOPE, the statewide curriculum mandated to public schools in Texas, is designed to closely align with the state's end-of-course examinations, known as STAAR, or the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness.
Because Northside Baptist is a private school, Hartley and other teachers at the school have more control over how they teach their students.
At Northside Baptist School, students take the California Achievement Test (CAT) every year to keep track of their learned skills.
"I feel for teachers that don't get to do this," Hartley said. "Some kids learn differently, and this way I can address all those needs."
Hartley said she's taught at Northside for the 20 years, and this is her first time teaching second grade.
Her students laughed and joked at each other in between bites of king cake, a traditional Fat Tuesday pastry.
Every bite was filled with determination as each student hoped to find the plastic baby their teacher had hidden in each cake before class.
As the tradition goes, whoever finds the plastic baby has to buy the cake for next year's celebration.
Students who answered Hartley's questions correctly won Mardi Gras beads to wear during class.
"By the end of the day, I won't have any left around my neck," Hartley said. "They don't know when they're being quizzed. I like to keep them on their toes."
Jayden Odum, 8, colored in an outline of a Mardi Gras donut during the craft-making portion of the lecture.
"It's fun, and the cake is really good," Jayden said. "I want to stay in private school after this year and play baseball for UT."