CLEARFIELD — The “Mission: Impossible” theme song can be heard as the voice of Special Agent 13 comes over the intercom into a classroom at South Clearfield Elementary informing students that their class has been chosen to lead a secret mission.
“Your mission, if you choose to accept it, is top secret,” said the special agent, who is really Assistant Principal Mike Page.
He explained that there were confidential instructions hidden in the classroom.
Fourth-grade students in Marilyn Brinkerhoff’s class scurried about searching for the large envelope containing the instructions for their mission.
Seated on a stool in front of her class, Brinkerhoff read the instructions to the students.
“Your mission, if you choose to accept it, is to work as a class to create and share a haiku.”
The mission explained that the class must write a haiku — a traditional form of Japanese poetry consisting of three lines. The first and last lines have five syllables, with the middle line having seven syllables.
“The best thing is to start with brainstorming,” said Brinkerhoff.
With this information the students began the process of writing a haiku. First they listed things they have been studying that week in class. After the list was formed they voted on what they would like to write about. The subject of friends got the most votes, so the students began to come up with adjectives and phrases that described friends — words such as respectful, friendly, trustworthy, caring, positive, cheerful, polite and funny.
Titled “My Friend, here is their haiku:
Positive, polite and true
I must be like you.
“This was really fun,” said 10-year-old Krizandra Brigino. “I like the secret mission because the whole class gets to do it. Our class can work together.”
Her classmate Garrett Wixon also liked that the class could work together on the haiku.
“I hadn’t heard of a haiku before, I thought it was an animal,” Garrett said.
The Mission: Impossible activity started when kindergarten teacher Anjanette McNeeley was teaching writing skills to her class.
McNeeley said the project went along with the school district’s core writing ideals.
“I thought it was a fun way to increase our daily writing,” McNeeley said.
So her class wrote the first haiku and then delivered packages to three different classrooms.
“We did ours on winter. They are to write about something they are currently learning about and then share it with other grades,” said McNeeley.
“I liked it, it was really fun,” said kindergarten student Mercaydes Tolley. “Snowman was in ours.”
Haden Ortiz who is also in McNeeley’s kindergarten class demonstrated how he learned syllables by hitting his hands on his legs for each syllable.
“Ours had snowballs in it,” he said.
Titled “Winter,” it went like this:
Snowball, coats, snowman
Snow angels, snow falling
Scarf, chilly, mittens
The project became Mission: Impossible to make it more fun for students.
“I just thought it would be fun to be secret, to do a secret mission or spy mission. My kids thought it would be fun,” McNeeley said.
Once the haiku was written it was printed on white copy paper. A student had to sneak into the school office and place it inside the envelope on the counter marked “Mission: Haiku.” Each class then copied the instructions and took it to be hidden in another classroom.
Each haiku is placed on a bulletin board where everyone may read them.
Once all of the classrooms have had the Mission: Impossible packet, nearly 570 students in the school will have participated in the project.
Page said he heard students in the hallways talking about how much fun it was. And even the principal Daren Allred wrote one.
“It was a good way to stay in touch with the classes, it brought school-wide unity,” said McNeeley.