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California Elementary students learn more than words from dictionaries

California Elementary students learn more than words from dictionaries

October 17th, 2018 by Liz Morales, emorales@californiademocrat.com in Local News

Third-grade students at California Elementary School were given a quick lesson from one of information's forefathers — the dictionary.

Photo by Liz Morales/Democrat photo

In a world where information can be requested and received within a matter of seconds with ever-growing technological advances, third-grade students at California Elementary School were given a quick lesson from one of information's forefathers — the dictionary.

Sue Gerhart-Kikis, from Spring, Texas and who paid a visit to the school Oct. 12, was there to remind students dictionaries are still relevant to learning.

Gerhart-Kikis and her husband, Tom, have been members of The Dictionary Project for around 10 years. The nonprofit organization has handed out dictionaries to students across the country, since 1992 when Annie Plummer from Savannah, Georgia, noticed a need for informational reading materials in schools in her area.

This idea sprung to life in 1995 when it officially was established. It has since provided dictionaries to 31,174,620 third graders across the country.

"I very much believe in the Dictionary Project," Gerhart-Kikis said. "What we give is much more than just a dictionary. Each of the 35,000 words are geared for third-grade students and it's just a mini-encyclopedia."

A Student's Dictionary serves its normal purpose as a book of definitions. It also includes detailed information about the solar system, weights and measures, global geography and even an extensive biography of each president.

Speaking of presidents, Tom had an interesting experience when visiting a school.

"This is just so much fun," Tom said. "At one school, there was a boy who was a descendant of George Washington. When I found that out, I thought 'Wow', and asked the kid for his autograph. The kid kind of laughed about it, but after Sue was done, he found me and asked 'Do you still want my autograph?'"

Tom isn't the only one who enjoys the experience. Third-grade students at CES voiced their excitement throughout Gerhart-Kikis' presentation on their new-found dictionaries.

While the educational duo live in Texas, they have travelled to California for the past four years for a special reason.

"My mother and father were from California," Gerhart-Kikis said. "They graduated from California High School. I still have many cousins in California."

Sharing dictionaries through The Dictionary Project is not just something Gerhart-Kikis takes part in. Her brother also gives dictionaries to students in Eldon.

To Gerhart-Kikis, this is a "civic and community project." While she tries to concentrate more on Title I schools in her area, the trek to California is still worth it to her.