Friday, March 12, 2010

USA on Display

The Olympics has its Parade of Nations, New Year’s Day has the Parade of Roses, and now our own third grade announces… The Parade of States!

Many of our upper grades students have fond memories of their third grade “state reports,” which have been a perennial highlight of the year. This year, that longstanding tradition has assumed a broader significance due to the extensive study of Massachusetts that comprised much of the curriculum during the fall and winter. Mrs. Moriarty and Ms. Twarog blended geography, history, earth science, environmental and cultural studies to give students deep knowledge about our home state. In the process, they also emphasized research skills necessary for learning about other locations.

After February vacation, each student selected a state for an individual project. The criteria for their choices varied: “I love visiting my aunt and cousins there,” “My dad was born there,” “I love going to the beach there,” and “I’ve never been there, and I really wanted to learn about it” were some of the explanations given. Regardless of their reasoning, the students plunged eagerly into their investigations. They searched Internet sites in the computer lab, pored over reference books, and consulted atlases to gather information about famous people, significant locations and attractions, important facts, landforms, ecosystems, border states, natural resources, and unique details.

The culmination and celebration of the state project has been the production of a set of “floats,” which will form a grand display of knowledge about the United States. The students have built elaborate topographical maps of their states using molding dough. Each map, which has been painted to show waterways, mountains, deserts, forests, and shoreline, forms the top of a complex presentation box. Children referred frequently to images in their atlases, making sure to create the most accurate representations possible. Ms. Twarog commented that this was the first time many of the students had used visual reference guides in this way, and she was delighted with the care and attention to detail demonstrated during the map-making sessions. With similar focus, the students completed their floats by illustrating the rest of the boxes. The sides of the floats feature images and captions noting key facts. Inside, the children have included artifacts that represent important features about the states.

As they worked on their floats, the children shared their knowledge and discoveries with one another in informal, but informative ways. They talked about similar features among their states, described notable locations, and inspected their classmates’ maps with curiosity. This community spirit is a hallmark of our approach to learning, combining excellence with joy.


  1. This post shows the importance and the efficacy of social learning. A totally quiet classroom is one in which no learning is occurring because the students are afraid to speak up.

  2. I think it would be fun for each student to have their parents secure a map of the US and have each family member put pins in cities where they have been - or spent the night. This could be a life-long project for the students to look towards the goal of an exploration of all 50 states. Maybe even after they graduate they can keep up with their fellow classmates and see who gets to all 50 the soonest.