What a great idea!

Not only did a couple of high-school freshmen create a project to benefit elementary schoolchildren, but they did so in a way that was innovative and fun while also being educational.

Here’s the first cool thing: Michael Gauss and Ted Hankle wrote a book.

So did their classmates, by the way.

The books were part of an interdisciplinary project at Western Albemarle High School in which students were challenged to write a historically accurate children’s book about a hero’s journey in an ancient civilization.

Greece, Egypt, India were among the ancient empires chosen.

When the books were finished, students headed over to nearby Brownsville Elementary School to read their stories to third-graders. The readings dovetailed with a third-grade lesson unit that also deals with ancient civilizations.

This would have been enough by itself to earn “great idea” accolades.

But Michael and Ted took it a step further. They thought their story would be more fun for the third-graders, “would stand out and be more engaging if they could affect the story,” as Michael said.

So they asked the pupils whether their hero should flee or fight when confronted with a Roman soldier. The third-graders’ vote determined the story’s direction.

This project has many obvious benefits.

It makes lessons interesting for both the freshmen and the third-graders. It “multitasks” by combining writing, literature and history lessons laterally across the curriculum at the high-school level but also vertically in connection with the elementary school. It teaches care for others, as the high-schoolers share their work with the third-graders — even to the point of the Western students becoming “role models,” in the words of third-grade teacher Laura Crotteau.

But Michael and Ted added an interactive element that was particularly notable. It was almost as if they borrowed a concept from modern entertainment technology — video games, for instance, or even more sophisticated virtual reality programs — and reintroduced it to the written page.

Well done, gentlemen. Well done.

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