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Area Students Share Their Scary Thoughts, Pictures, Stories

November 7, 2005 | by Wendy Leopold
A spare picture created by a student at McHenry Middle School depicts a row of lockers of the sort that line school walls everywhere. In front of Locker 525 stands a nefarious creature holding what looks to be a bloodied knife. The detention room looms. In dripping letters above the lockers are the words: No One Gets Out Alive!

Scary student-created pictures like this one and hair-raising student-written essays brought together pupils from schools in and around Chicago in a variety of Halloween activities made possible by Northwestern’s Collaboratory Project. To view a variety of scary activities and student work from Chicago, Elk Grove Village, Grayslake, Joliet, Northbrook, Palos Heights and McHenry, visit http://collaboratory.nunet/ScariestStories/.

An “online gallery” provides space for youngsters to exhibit and share their work online. An easy-to-use, Web-based learning environment, the Collaboratory provides teachers with activity ideas and the tools to develop project-based activities that are fun for their students and also reinforce Illinois Learning Standards.

Using the “online gallery,” student’s participating in the Collaboratory’s “Scariest Stories” project showed off, discussed and reviewed their literary and artistic talents not only with students in their own classroom but also with pupils attending distant schools.

It’s important to students to have the chance to view their work on the Internet, according to art teacher Ruth Shunick whose 6th, 7th and 8th grade students participated in “Scariest Stories.” “When their work goes into the Collaboratory, it is published and available for their peers, parents, grandparents and the world to see,” the McHenry Middle School teacher says.  “The Collaboratory provides a forum for a real-world learning experience where feedback comes not just from the teacher but from others as well.”

“Scariest Stories” is the latest in a series of quarterly statewide projects for Illinois teachers and their students sponsored by the Collaboratory Project.

“Scariest Stories” includes a “Cybrary” (or cyber library) where students contributed links, read ghost stories and learned local legends about different Illinois locations. In one Cybrary visit they learned, for example, about the small but eerie cemetery on Cuba Road near Barrington; a mansion in Bull Valley that once was inhabited by devout spiritualists and is said now to be haunted; and strange happenings in Decatur (considered by some, around Halloween at least, a site of paranormal activity).

Participating students also took “The Scariest Survey” to learn how other youngsters celebrate the days around Halloween and get an idea of the things that most scare them. Do they like Halloween for the parties? For the chance to wear a costume?  For the scary movies or permission to eat lots of candy? Are they most afraid of heights? spiders and bugs? the dark? or nothing at all, perhaps?

In Mrs. Shunick’s classes at McHenry, 8th grader Jenny said the survey was “pretty cool” but found the results predictable: “Most kids just want to eat candy. So do I.” Among the more than 100 sugar-hungry McHenry students, few reported that Halloween frightened them. Once survey results from all the participating schools are in, students will gather data and analyze it in different ways.

“They didn’t have what I’m scared of on the survey,” remarked 7th grader Joe. That would be “clowns with chainsaws.”

Topics: Campus Life