By Chris Kieffer/NEMS Daily Journal
SALTILLO – Third-grader Jeff Nock has never been to West Virginia, but he wouldn’t mind going.
After all, the Saltillo Elementary School student became an expert on “The Mountain State” while studying it in his discovery class this semester.
Each of the roughly 165 students in the third- to fifth-grade school’s program for gifted students researched a state during the past six weeks. Their study culminated last Monday night when the school hosted “State Fair Night” for families and friends.
The students presented shoe boxes they had decorated to reflect their states and told facts about the place they had chosen. Many also dressed as a famous native son.
Jeff dressed as astronaut Jon McBride, a native West Virginian. He talked about the state bird and the state tree, its capitol and bordering states.
“I liked getting to learn more about different states I’ve never been to,” he said. “I don’t think I’d ever get to go to West Virginia, but I’d like to.”
The students had to use the Internet and library books to do extensive research on their state and discover a variety of facts about it. Discovery teachers Leah Partlow, Debbie Davis, Peggy Tubbs and Holly Nelson built on that research with a study of presidents and elections.
“I loved seeing the students get excited and share their information with each other in the process,” Tubbs said. “Any research enhances their knowledge.”
On “State Fair Night,” family and friends visited the school’s multipurpose building to see their work. One student recited the Pledge of Allegiance and another said the “Gettysburg Address.” The pupils sang a song about the states. Hot dogs and caramel apples were served to give the event a fair atmosphere.
“It was a great learning process for them to speak publicly and put things together,” Partlow said.
Third-grader Bryson Burks dressed as Wild Bill Hickok, the most famous cowboy from his state, South Dakota.
“I liked getting to enjoy the moment and learning all the interesting facts about South Dakota,” he said, shortly after reciting the state animal, nickname and bird.
Fifth-grader Megan Roland, 11, decorated her shoe box about Illinois with a silhouette of the Chicago skyline.
“I liked getting to learn about the state and everyone who has come from it,” she said.
The teachers said one benefit of the project was that it allowed students to show creativity in different ways. Some did great research, others made elaborately designed shoe boxes and others shined in their presentations. They also benefited from the research, teachers said.
“Hearing them still talk about it, you know they retained it,” Partlow said. “Research is not the most exciting thing, but if they can retain a little bit, that is great.”