Clarendon’s ‘Web’
Local elementary school uses classic tale to teach English, math
by E. Assata Wright
Reporter staff writer
Apr 07, 2013 | 3751 views | 0 0 comments | 7 7 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Clarendon student Hileena Gelaya makes a new friend at the exhibit’s makeshift version of Zuckerman’s Farm.
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Perhaps it comes as no surprise that students in Secaucus – a former pig farming town – would take to the story of “Charlotte’s Web,” the 1952 classic children’s book by E.B. White. And perhaps it comes as no surprise that educators in Secaucus have found a unique way to use the tale about friendship and loyalty to teach third graders English and math.

On March 28, third graders at Clarendon School put on a performance and presented exhibits that revolved around the tale of “Charlotte’s Web” and lessons they had learned from reading the book. The presentation also included a visit from a few live animals –livestock that could very well have existed on the fabled Zuckerman’s farm described in the book. And, of course, no Charlotte’s Web-themed event would be complete without the Secaucus town mascot, Henry, the potbelly pig who, like E.B. White’s Wilber, was rescued and grew to be loved by many. So naturally, Henry was given a place of honor at the Clarendon program.

Storylines and webs

For those who may have forgotten the storyline, and who missed the Julia Roberts film version released a few years back, “Charlotte’s Web” takes place on a farm where a little girl named Fern takes a shining to Wilber, a runty and lonely pig that is kept on the farm. Fern protects Wilber from being turned into bacon and pork rinds, and the two become friends.

When the undersized Wilber gets bigger, he is sent to Zuckerman’s, a farm owned by Fern’s uncle, Homer, where Wilber is once again lonely and once again in danger of being sent to the slaughterhouse.

Enter Charlotte, a spider who lives in a web above Wilber’s pen. Like Fern, Charlotte also takes a liking to Wilber and – realizing the doom that awaits him – decides to protect him by creating “miracles” in his barn. Using her web-spinning powers, Charlotte creates words in her web that make Wilber something of a celebrity in his community. Now a local star, Wilber’s life is spared.

Rucha Sathe, one of the Clarendon third graders who participated in the school’s recent performance, read from her entry to her exhibit for the Reporter.

“Charlotte wanted to save Wilber’s life. She wrote [the word] ‘terrific’ in a web. Oh what a tangled web of words,” said Rucha, pointing to the exhibit to which she contributed.

One exhibit, titled “We are Buggy,” focused on bugs that one might find on a farm. Another, titled “Spectacular Synonyms,” challenged students to write synonyms for the word “terrific’ in colorful web drawings. Students had written such words as “awesome,” “amazing,” “astonishing,” and “outstanding.”

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The presentation included a visit from a few live animals –livestock that could very well have existed on the fabled Zuckerman’s farm described in the book.

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Eve M. Grantale explained the “Charlotte’s Web Chronicles,” an imaginary newspaper that challenged students to write articles that could have been written about Wilber, Charlotte, and life on Zuckerman’s farm.

“This is a newspaper that we put together,” said Grantale, pointing to one of the stories written by a fellow student. “This is a story about Wilber and his friendship with Charlotte and how she was able to help him.”

Other exhibits were titled “And the Survey Says” and “Barnyard Math.”

“We had to count how many bees, butterflies, ants, and grasshoppers there were,” explained Clarendon third grader Candy Solorzano.

The Clarendon event was attended by parents, family members, and town officials, in addition to Clarendon’s student community.

E-mail E. Assata Wright at awright@hudsonreporter.com.

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