By Monique Harrison
A group of Rankin Elementary second-graders put together what it saw as a viable proposition earlier this year after discovering one of the class’s biggest assignments this semester would be to learn the 50 states.
“We wanted to visit all the states as a class,” said 7-year-old Alex Gilbert.
But teacher Kameron Conner had to quickly nix that proposal.
“I explained to them that the school board probably didn’t have the money to let us travel to all of the states,” the Tupelo teacher said. “And I told them they would probably miss their parents very much. It just wouldn’t work.”
So, instead of making the trip themselves, the class let several plush teddy bears do the traveling for them.
“If we knew someone who was traveling out of the state, we gave them our bear,” explained 8-year-old Jeff White. “Then, if they knew someone who was traveling, they gave the bear to them. It was this chain thing.”
The person who had the bear in his or her custody was asked to keep a brief journal, detailing where the bear had been and what it had done that day. Brochures and souvenirs were stuffed in a backpack strapped to the bear.
“Everyone who had a bear got some souvenirs back,” said 8-year-old Allison Ferris, who received a postcard from Hawaii for her efforts. “People got pins, pamphlets, toys and things. It was neat because this bear went all over the place.”
Students also sent letters over the Internet, asking recipients to pretend they had just received an imaginary bear. Recipients then described how the bear might have spent a typical day in their home state.
After responding, recipients of the class’s e-mail were asked to forward the request to someone who lived in another state.
Some of the Internet bears made it overseas, visiting Brazil and parts of Europe.
“Those bears got the good trip – they got to go really far,” said 8-year-old Markethia Isby. “But mine went to Pennsylvania. That’s far, too. I’d like to live there, maybe.”
Parents and local officials, including Mayor Jack Marshall, attended a program presented by the students Thursday. The event was designed to give students an opportunity to share the information they had learned about their states.
“I thought it was wonderful to see the kids exposed to this much information from the different states,” said Jeff Douglass, whose daughter Rachel is in the class. “I love what they are doing with the Internet.”
Eight-year-old Lyndie Bishop said the class project gave her a better idea of what America meant.
“I learned that America really means something – it’s not just something you can forget,” she said. “We live here. It’s who we are.”