No rest for `Clapper’s Killers’ |

No rest for `Clapper’s Killers’

Tim Mutrie

A class of Aspen Middle School fifth-graders has a busy month ahead, with four fund-raising projects in the works that will help pay for a class trip to Washington, D.C. next year.

Willard Clapper and his 22 10- and 11-year-old students, and some of their brave parents, will stage a West End alley cleanup on Saturday afternoon. And for their efforts, the city of Aspen will contribute $1,000 to help fund the so-called “Mr. C in D.C. 2000” excursion next February.

The unique format of Clapper’s class, called a “loop” program or “looping,” allows the class to stay together for two years – for the students’ fifth- and sixth-grade years. The trip to Washington, D.C., which will fall in the students’ sixth-grade year, is the culmination of much of their two years of work and school work.

“Everything we do somehow points to Washington, D.C.,” said Clapper, an Aspen School District teacher of 25 years. “We’re studying the Revolutionary War right now, we’re talking about governmental issues. We’ve done a lot of creative writing about courage and about being self-reliant and responsible. It’s a two-year project and it takes us that long to earn the money and to put it all together.”

In addition to the alley work, “Clapper’s Killers,” as the youngsters are affectionately known, will hold a car wash on May 22 in front of the Aspen fire station and host a screening of the extreme mountain-biking movie “Retread” to raise funds. The movie showing will be May 14 at 5 p.m. in the school district auditorium.

“It’s smashing, it’s bashing, it’s face-planting fun,” sang student Carly Sewell, before dashing off to another classroom with classmate Maryann Daniel to perform a singing promotion for the “Retread” screening.

“For our fourth money-making project – and this is the big one – we are raising morning glories,” Clapper said. About 1,500 of the flowering plants are being nurtured to maturity by Clapper’s students; some in their classroom and most in the “green room,” just upstairs.

“We’re going to have hanging baskets and then we’re also going to sell individual plants that people can transplant,” Clapper said. The plants will be sold for $5 during the last week of May.

A schedule in the classroom assigns who must water the plants on a daily basis – a job the kids take seriously.

“We started from scratch,” boasted a proud student Paul Britvar. “We’ve got small pots, we’ve got big pots, we’ve got all different kinds of morning glories, we’ve got blue pots, we’ve got green pots, we’ve purple pots, we’ve got tons of pots.”

“Most of the work on this thing is being done after school,” said Clapper, “so it’s not one of those things that takes up a lot of class time.”

Also on the class’s “chore” chart is a rotating schedule for staffing the cafeteria’s Snack Shack. Two of Clapper’s students run the shack daily, and for their efforts, the class receives 20 percent of all proceeds.

For the “Mr. C in D.C. 2000” trip, “the students must earn $200 themselves over a two-year period and that means they have to earn it, they can’t get a gift from grandma,” Clapper said. Parents are obligated to cover about $300 to offset the costs, he said.

“What I try to create is a triangle between the parent, the student and myself, so everyone is linked tightly together, and this is the result,” said Clapper of his teaching style while looking over the busy classroom and students this week. “You get this kind of community spirit. This Washington, D.C. trip is the kind of stuff the kids will remember.”

Above: From left, fifth-graders Wylie Melberg, Andrew Bowlby and Wyatt Mohrman care for morning glories, which will be sold to raise funds for a class trip for teacher Willard Clapper’s students. James Paussa photo.

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