A Cat-Crazy Curriculum
What do T.S. Eliot, a Broadway musical, and a Los Angeles elementary-school teacher have in common? A love of cats, of course.
And under Barbara Cser's unique curriculum, 4th and 5th graders at the Fletcher Drive Elementary School have spent the past several weeks learning more about man's favorite mouse catcher.
"I remembered reading Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats in college," says Ms. Cser of an Eliot book of cat poems. "I went to the library, reread it, and fell in love with it all over again." And so began her quest to catalyze her classroom into a kitty corner of learning.
Ms. Cser bought $200 worth of books on cats, covered her classroom walls with cat paraphernalia, and created a completely cat-o-centric curriculum. Her class studied the history of cats, from deification in ancient Egypt to persecution in the Middle Ages; science and mathematics through cat anatomy and measurements; and language arts through their readings of the Eliot poems.
The students were treated to a performance of the musical "Cats," which is based on the Eliot work, and later performed a few of the numbers themselves. Actors from the touring show visited the students and gave them a lesson on theater makeup.
While Ms. Cser had never been a cat fancier before the unit, she is one now. In fact, students were so responsive that she plans on repeating the unit next year.
She admits that she received some ribbing from her peers. "On the day of our performance of songs from 'Cats,'" she recalls, "our principal sent me a cake with a dog on top, and an inscription that read, 'Barbara, life must have balance.'"--S.K.G.