Canaan middle-schoolers speak out

Messenger photos by Kristy Zurbrick

Fifth-graders who participated in the Oration Celebration at Canaan Middle School were: (front row, from left) Alec Koppes, Vicki Clemens, Savannah Thomas, Casey Pollock, Tracy Burkholder, Cameron Toth; (back row) Helen Semenishin, Courtney Picklesimon, Jenna Hamilton, Derek Parker, Jordan Headings and Hunter Harrison.

Sixth-graders who participated in the Oration Celebration at Canaan Middle School were: (front row, from left) Shelby Wilson, Derek Ridder, Casey Graber, Samantha Stambaugh, Bank Chanthalath, Hayden Hess; (back row) Damian Papamihail, Stephanie Justus, Brittany Troyer, Taylor Merritts, Emily Elswick and Sierra Boone.

One couldn’t help but learn something by attending Canaan Middle School’s Oration Celebration on April 3.

For instance, Benjamin Franklin had 16 siblings; Molly Pitcher was the first woman to fire a cannon; and George Washington had brown hair under that powdered wig.

Even more interesting was learning that fifth- and sixth-graders have the guts to get up in front of 150 of their peers and give speeches—alone at a podium with all eyes on them.

The event has become a tradition at Canaan, inspired initially by the declamation contest that former Jonathan Alder teacher Allison Benton started at Monroe Elementary and Plain City Elementary more than 25 years ago.

While the elementary students recite poems, each middle school student is required to research a topic, write a speech and then deliver the speech, first to their individual  classrooms and then, if they’re selected, to the entire student body. This year’s topic was heroes.

In past years, each homeroom teacher selected two students to perform in the Oration Celebration. This year, organizers opted for a slightly different approach that opened up the possibility of selection to more students.

Each homeroom still yielded two speakers, one picked by the teacher and, in a twist of procedure, one drawn as a wildcard, explained Keely Armstrong who coordinated the fifth-grade portion of the program with fellow teacher Brynn Craney. Tammy Stalnaker served as the program’s director with assistance from her fellow sixth-grade teacher, Terri Stahl.

Any student who earned at least a C on their speech could put their name in the wildcard drawing for a chance to be their homeroom’s second speaker. For each grade level, there were six teacher picks and six wildcards.

All 24 of the speakers put their unique stamps on their performances. Most consulted notecards, but some, like Tracy Burkholder, delivered their speech from memory. Others, like Jenna Hamilton who talked about Pocahontas, incorporated hand motions. Some even got laughs, like Casey Pollock who imitated Bill Cosby’s cartoon character, Fat Albert, by opening his speech with, “Hey, hey, hey!”

All overcame any nerves they may have had, and many were congratulated after-wards by parents who were in attendance.

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