The ‘Cold’ facts

Gavin Grove, 6, of Front Royal, a kindergarten student at A.S. Rhodes Elementary School, shows his windshield artwork to his teacher Amanda Rutherford at school on Thursday. Grove misunderstood a school announcement last week reminding students to dress warm the next day for the severe wind chill factor. Rutherford made it a teachable moment and developed a windshield factory during class to demonstrate the wind chill factor. Rich Cooley/Daily

FRONT ROYAL — Six-year-old Gavin Grove arrived home last week excited to return to school the next day.

“We need to dress warm tomorrow, because we’re going to a windshield factory,” his mother remembered him saying.

Julie Grove understood immediately. There was no factory, no field trip. Her son had misinterpreted a school announcement warning about the wind chill factor, which last Thursday was so low it encouraged Warren County Public Schools to start two hours later than usual.

She tried to explain this to Gavin, but he was adamant. He knew what his ears had heard.

When discussion failed at dissuading him from his excitement at visiting the factory, his mother wrote a letter to Amanda Rutherford, kindergarten teacher at A.S. Rhodes Elementary School.

Rutherford might have read the letter, chuckled at the misunderstanding and told Gavin the truth. Instead she turned a misunderstanding into a teachable moment.

“When Gavin came to school, he was really, really excited,” she said in a phone interview earlier this week.

Like his parents, Rutherford also tried explaining to him about the previous day’s school-wide announcement about the wind chill factor, but she quickly realized there was no substitute for the field trip he had envisioned.

Imagination like that doesn’t last long in children, said Rutherford, 27. So rather than letting him down, she and teaching assistant Katie Garrett made a plan.

In her classroom, Rutherford sectioned off a window with an easel where she used curtains and party streamers to simulate a factory that makes and tests windshields.

During classroom free time at the end of the day, when other students were playing at a toy kitchen or a station with toy cars, Rutherford asked Gavin to design his own windshield using a pen on a small dry erase board.

Then, to test his design’s efficiency, she instructed him to walk through the curtains.

“Are you ready?” she asked him.

Dressed in his warmest winter clothes, holding his windshield in front of his face, Gavin stood prepared to shield his face from the bitter wind that blew the plastic streamers around him.

“Of course the other kids saw it,” Rutherford remembered. “They were excited and they wanted to go through it with their windshield.”

“We had to keep it open a second day,” she said.

When he returned home, Gavin had quite a story for his parents.

“I told you, I told you so,” his mother recalled him saying.

He even brought home a certificate signed by his teacher, recognizing Gavin “for attending the ‘Wind Shield Factory.'” In the top left-hand corner of the certificate, an illustrated polar bear in black shades chills in a high-backed wooden chair with the description “Wind-Chill Factory.”

Gavin said his teachers built the Wind Shield Factory while he and his classmates were in physical education class.

“I was the leader, because I asked about it,” he said. “I got to go in first.”

Gavin said he likes kindergarten, but his favorite part is his teacher — “for teaching us how to learn.”

His parents like Rutherford too.

“She’s just a wonderful person,” Julie Grove said, “and for her to go and change her lesson plans and to include that [factory] … we were amazed.”

A fifth-year kindergarten teacher, Rutherford has taught for four years at A.S. Rhodes, where she also attended kindergarten. She said it has always been her dream to teach kindergarten at that school.

“I feel like with kindergarten, every single day they say the most interesting things,” Rutherford said. So when students come to her with ideas they’ve imagined, she said she has a choice.

“You can choose to say ‘no, that’s not real,’ and tell them what the real thing is,” — which she said is important — “but I also feel like they have an imagination, and there’s a level at which you develop on that.”

“[The Wind Shield Factory] wasn’t really a lesson that was planned or thought out or anything,” she said. “I mean, I do think they learned from it.”

Describing the idea as cool, Gavin said he imagined the factory looking much like an Advance Auto Parts store, where he and his father, Josh Grove, bought windshield wipers.

“He definitely didn’t come home disappointed,” his father said, “and he was able to have bragging rights and tell us we were wrong.”

Gavin agreed: “I’m like the only kid that knows what the teachers are saying.”

Contact staff writer Josette Keelor at 540-465-5137 ext. 176, or jkeelor@nvdaily.com