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Teacher uses mystery to spark interest in learning

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CNY/NNY/S. Tier: Teacher uses mystery to spark interest in learning
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It's an age-old struggle: Trying to get young students interested and engaged in their studies. Now one teacher in Ithaca is trying a new approach. Our Tamara Lindstrom tells us why these students are so eager to learn.

ITHACA, N.Y. -- It may be a reading class, but this room is no library. The sixth graders at DeWitt Middle School are scrutinizing evidence and mulling over theories.

"They have to go around and collect all this evidence, ask questions, analyze all the evidence we have in the classroom and they have to formulate a theory and present that to the class," said teacher Kelly Horrocks.

It's all part of Horrock's theory about enticing children to learn.

"It was really clear that when I used story telling as a teaching tool, the students were much more attentive, they were more involved and the most important and maybe most surprising thing is they really retained the information better," Horrocks said.

So the veteran teacher of nearly two decades wrote her own story, a fantasy novel called "The Time Traveler's Apprentice" that takes the reader on a mystery tour through medieval England.

"It's a really good book and my social studies teacher wrote it and I love it and I was the first person to finish it," said sixth grader Alex de Roos.

"I just really was excited to read it because Ms. Horrocks is really one of my favorite teachers, so I thought it would be good," said sixth grade student Corinne Orlowski. "She does a lot of fun stuff to help us learn."

Like investigating actual historical events.

"Right now in the story, we're learning about the green children of Woolpit," de Roos said.

"There are several sources that record two young children who walked out of a cave in the village of Woolpit in England," Horrocks explained. "And they didn't speak English and their clothes were odd and they had green skin."

A mystery that sparks the interest of these young readers, while slipping in more than a little history.

"So they hang onto it more," Horrocks said. "I think it sticks with them."

Proving that a spoonful of sugar helps the homework go down.

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