Last week, Tye River Elementary School welcomed Disney’s Sheriff Woody, his partner Jessie, and a number of their closest pals to the school in order to engage children even further in reading and math.

On Nov. 21, Tye River Elementary School held its fourth math and literacy night, this year centered around the theme of “Toy Story 4.” Principal Marti Bradt, dressed up as Jessie complete with long red hair and freckles, said every year the staff and faculty try to choose a relevant theme they hope will get the students excited.

“The goal is to bring students and families out to engage with everyone,” Bradt said.

Bradt said it took about six or seven weeks to get the event together, which included preparing a gym full of games, a library where “Jessie” reads to the students, classrooms full of different escape rooms and activities, and a “book walk,” which is similar to a cakewalk but the winner gets a book.

In “Toy Story 4,” a new character named Forky is introduced. Forky is just a plain spork until Bonnie, a child about to enter kindergarten, makes him into ‘Forky’ with Popsicle sticks, and pipe cleaners. Along with the teachers dressed up in an effort to engage children, Forky characters were set up around the school. For student Hayden Lee Cousins, the chosen theme was perfect.

“I like ‘Toy Story 4’ the best,” Hayden said about the Toy Story series.

Hayden said out of all the characters in the movie, Forky is his favorite.

“I like Forky because he’s a new character and likes trash but they said he’s not trash and pull him out,” Hayden said. In the movie, Forky wants to go into the trash where he believes he belongs, but the other characters constantly bring him back to the group.

Students from pre-K through second grade worked on “Toy Story 4”-connected math and literacy games to re-affirm what they are learning in school. The third through fifth graders practiced working together to get out of escape rooms designed to make them think and work in groups. Some escape rooms included working together to bounce ping-pong balls into plastic bins. In another room, students used context clues to solve problems that would give them a combination to unlock locks.

Bradt said it was a team effort to get this event organized and “kudos go to Susan Cargill the instructional coach.”

“This was definitely a team effort,” Bradt said.

The Pixar theme engaged other students as well, as children in the cafeteria participated in the book walk; students in Michelle Lucado’s classroom worked on activities and older students upstairs worked in teams to “escape” the escape rooms. Dinner was also served in the cafeteria for everyone.

Assistant Principal Rob Makulowich transformed himself into the perfect Sheriff Woody, for his first math and literacy night. Complete with a cowboy hat, a red bandanna around his neck, and a badge, the students couldn’t get enough of him as he welcomed everyone to the event.

“This evening’s turnout is wonderful. The faculty and staff really came together for a great event and everyone seems excited,” Makulowich said.

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Erin Conway covers Nelson County for The News & Advance. Reach her at (434) 385-5524.

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