It begins with the careful selection of one of the 50 states that make up our nation. It concludes with pomp and circumstance in a grand State Fair at the end of the school year, complete with presentations and food. Between September and May, it involves hours of research using almanacs, books and the Internet, as well as time creating presentation materials and art.
The State Fair project is a fourth grade tradition and renowned within the Barnesville community. Students from kindergarten to third grade eagerly wait their turn, while Middle School students regard the experience fondly. It is the last major project in Lower School and a major part of preparing fourth graders for the next steps.
“The project is designed to allow students to explore their talents in many different areas,” said Fourth Grade Teacher Ann Pause. “Some may be more artistic, while others are more comfortable with technology, and sill others enjoy the research. In the end, they all learn new skills that will serve them well as they move into Middle School as fifth graders next year.”
Throughout the year, each fourth grader gets to know their chosen state intimately. They learn about the culture, geography, economy, climate, resources and government. They discover interesting facts such as their state’s symbols - flower, bird, seal, song and flag; when their state entered the Union; the origin of their state’s name; famous people who were born or lived in the state; and even, a crowd favorite, wacky laws.
The state project is part of the social studies curriculum and coincides with the overall study of the United States, but extends into other disciplines as well. In language arts, students draw on their research to complete writing assignments and create materials such as state reports, PowerPoint presentations and brochures. In art class, the students create ceramic tiles featuring their state’s bird and flower and make large maps in the shape of their state on which they paint landscapes representing their state.
Finally, in May, after spending an entire school year with their state – some families even visited their student’s state during spring break – the fourth graders have the chance to show-off their knowledge at the State Fair, the culmination of all their hard work.
Parents, faculty and students attend the fair, visiting each student’s booth to learn more about each state. The booths include tri-fold boards featuring facts and drawings made by the student that illustrate the important aspects of their state. Each student also gives an oral presentation to visitors and provides brochures and business cards they created. The piece de resistance, however, is the food. Each fourth grade family provides a special treat native to the student’s state for all to taste: fried chicken from Kentucky, cheesy grits from Louisiana, pineapple from Hawaii, and whoopee pies from Maine were just a few of the offerings this year.
“The students become personally invested in their project since it is a year long endeavor,” said Mrs. Pause. “I see them take so much pride in learning about their state and they enjoy sharing their knowledge, which makes them great "representatives" at the State Fair when they are asked to stand up and share what they know.”The State Fair is a fourth grade Signature Curriculum Event.