River Ridge fair educates both the students and attendees

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Pictured is the fifth grade class of 2000 during their state fair while attendees visited their booths. (Submitted photos)

By Rachel Mergen

 

Each year, fifth grade students at River Ridge find themselves faced with the biggest project of their grade level: the state fair. The project began in retired teacher Judy Drone’s social studies classroom around 1992 and has opened students’ eyes to states across the country ever since. 

“The crowds that we get have really increased over the years. We get parents, grandparents and neighbors, which is wonderful. It’s definitely been a good community focus,” noted current fifth grade teacher Kris Petrowitz. Throughout the school year, her students learn about the 50 states. “It’s a good culmination at the end of the year.”

“The goal for the kids is to get someone to want to come visit their state,” Petrowitz explained about the project. The students create booths, revealing information they have learned through weeks of research. The youth are required to look at multiple aspects of their chosen state, including the geography, history and notable native celebrities. According to Petrowitz, they usually end up focusing mostly on the tourist attractions of the state, because that is what raises their interest the most. 

For their booths, the students use their artistic skills to create posters and powerpoint presentations, along with required uniform posters that help share the information they found. They also are required to choose a famous person from their state to dress and act as. They then give a speech to attendees of the fair about their state through the perspective of their character. 

“They like to come in (early) to put in the extra effort,” Petrowitz stated, as students walked into the classroom to work on their posters before school even started. “The kids’ favorite part is probably when they get to write letters and mail them out, and then they get things in the mail. A lot of the time, we’ll hear from those places, and they’ll be like ‘you can go to the website to get a lot of information,’ but it’s exciting for the students to actually get things through the mail. Some places are just fantastic at what they send the kids from T-shirts, magnets and pencils to brochures. The kids get oodles and oodles of things, and they get excited to put all of that out (in their booths).”

The project is also quite enjoyable for the students, because, Petrowitz said, “Each year, we try to incorporate something a little bit new or different.” The students also find delight in being able to learn about their classmates’ states in addition to their own. 

“It’s been a fantastic project,” added Petrowitz. “[My favorite part is] when each child gets done with one part of their project and they see that final result. Initially, when they first start, it seems a bit overwhelming with how many parts of the project they have to do, but when they finish, they’re so proud of it. When the final step comes and they’re standing there so proud and their eyes are shining, it’s great.”

Educational skills benefit immensely. Petrowitz explained, “It’s been awesome. It hits on so many aspects between the research, which includes the kids getting books from the library that they check out. They have to use an old World Book encyclopedia also. As far as technology goes, its really opens their eyes with that, with the PowerPoints and the different websites they have to use. Their letter writing skills [have also improved].”

As the actual events go, the parents can tour the booths, as they are set up in alphabetical order with both fifth grade classes combined in the school’s multi-purpose room. Petrowitz said, “The parents are great and go to every booth.”

This year’s fifth grade state fair took place on May 23 in River Ridge’s multipurpose room. The community attended to support the students and learn more about the United States. 

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