NAPPANEE — Fifth-graders at Nappanee Elementary School proudly showed off their work at a state fair held Friday in the school gymnasium. The students have been studying states and the fair was the culmination of their work, which began in March.
This was the eighth annual state fair, which is set up similar to a science fair. Each student had a display board, research binder, an activity to share and almost all were dressed in costume. All of the 50 states were represented, some more than once as three fifth-grade classes participated in the fair, led by teachers Sandy Kurtz, Susan Roberts, Sonya Wolfe and Anita Ward.
Kurtz, the organizer explained the students were asked to write a persuasive article on their top three state choices and why they wanted to study those states. The team of fifth-grade teachers met and determined who should be assigned which states to ensure all states were represented. She said special consideration was given to students who lived in or had relatives living in particular states.
Kurtz said once the state was assigned to the student, he or she had to complete a binder of 22 pages of research including the state flower, state motto, state song, famous people who lived in their state, etc. and drawings. Then the students created display boards for their state and they needed to complete four projects. The students could dress up in costume like a famous person or character from the state they studied, serve a food common to the state; and create a diorama, a time line or a biography.
A majority of the students were dressed in costume and most had a food they were readily offering to visitors, although some had quizzes to complete.
One young man, Bryce Harner, offered a mystery box for visitors to stick their hands into and feel what was inside. Bryce had buffalo hair inside. His state was Wyoming and he said while visiting Wyoming he and his aunt collected the buffalo hair lying around from a nearby shedding buffalo.
Students share knowledge
Students were eager to share what they learned about their state and why they chose it. Wendy Romero from Kurtz’s class chose the state of Texas because she once lived there. She was serving salsa and chips — “the state snack” and she also created a diorama.
McKenzie Ryman’s brightly colored cheese head stood out among the students. A student in Ward’s class, she said she chose the state of Wisconsin because she was “very interested” in it.
“There’ve been a lot of shipwrecks there and cheese is my favorite food,” McKenzie said adding that she’s never been to Wisconsin but doing the project has created a desire to visit.
Jake Long was wearing a Chicago Cubs uniform and said he chose Illinois because he’s a big sports fan and likes famous Illinois natives Betty White and Harrison Ford. Stationed next to Jake was Jonathan Ortiz-Sanchez, dressed like a New Mexico native. Jonathan liked the fact that the yucca plant was the state flower and that “you can eat from it.” Jonathan has traveled to New Mexico, as well as Mexico and Honduras, with his family. He had a tray full of a native chocolate treat.
Madison Miller from Roberts class was dressed like a skier for her state of Utah and said she and her family went skiing there last year. She discovered the 2002 Winter Olympics were held in Park City and said she skied there. She said the most fun for her was “making my board. I put a lot of effort into it and learned a lot about Utah.”
Her neighbor, Heather Campbell, was excited about her state of Kansas and shared the facts she learned: The state bird is the western Meadowlark, the state flower is the sunflower, the state tree is the cottonwood and the state song is one of her favorites, “Home on the Range.”
She was dressed like Amelia Earhart and Heather cited many things she learned about the woman aviator, but the main point was “Girls can do the same thing as boys. She wanted people to know they could do their own thing and I think that’s really cool.”
Keaton Kitson was dressed ready to hunt the Alaskan wildlife. He said he chose Alaska because he had family members who once lived there.
“I like the northern lights and the wildlife,” he said. “I had no idea there were Indians — Native Americans — living there!”
Keaton said he had the most fun learning about the different animals that make Alaska their home and when asked what animal he’d most like to see he replied, “A grizzly bear!”
Lauren Mikel was anxious to share that she learned Pepsi Cola was invented in New Bern, N.C., and that it’s the home of The Biltmore House. Dressed like a Cherokee, she had samples of Krispy Kreme doughnuts to pass out as the company hails from North Carolina.
The underclassman toured the fair and each received two tickets that they could redeem at a state booth for a favorite food. Every student who shared spoke of how much fun they had doing this project and the fair.
While they were having such a good time, their teachers know they were being graded for reading, social studies and writing and learning important skills like how to research, outline and create a bibliography that will carry them into middle school and beyond.
“They’ve become experts on their states,” Kurtz said.