Breaker bars instead of binders. Shovels instead of pens. Sweat instead of slides. Digging a hole with my class was very fun. When walking down the mountain I was expecting just a walk and a quiz. First I saw the water truck. Then I saw Mr. Burke with a shovel. And then in front of him what I least expected…a hole. I stopped in my tracks. I didn’t know what to think. And before I knew it, I was in the hole digging. 

These reflections from sixth grade student Sophia S. were written following an immersive learning experience to culminate the study of “Holes,” a summer reading selection written by Louis Sachar. 

Mr. Danny Tieger, sixth grade humanities instructor, says his inspiration for the project was to allow students to better understand the novel’s protagonists, Stanley and Zero. “It occurred to me that the scale of this book is lost if you’ve never tried to dig anything,” Mr. Tieger says. “It felt like a great opportunity to use experiential learning to create connections with the book, and to bring the classroom to our mountain.” 

For these students, the magic was in the details. Mr. Tieger placed a toy yellow-spotted lizard—the venomous creatures that terrorized Stanley and Zero—on the perimeter of the hole.  He also brought sour cream and onion chips to symbolize the onions that were the antidote to the lizards’ venom, and peach rings for students to enjoy as they reflected on major themes of the book (just as the characters drank “Sploosh,” a fermented peach drink, for survival in the desert). 

While the group didn’t find actual treasure, they did discover a chunk of obsidian rock, a rusted driver nail, and a gigantic boulder. And, to culminate the experience, the classes left behind their names in a mason jar 44.5 inches into the earth.