Edwards’ Fifth-Grade State Fair

a child

About the Fair

The name of Edwards Elementary’s Fifth-Grade State Fair calls to mind barrel racing, bake-offs, and blue ribbons, but the event is actually about the territories that make up the nation. All four of Edwards’ fifth-grade classes had the chance to participate and learn about the United States of America. Students in the Dual Language Program also had the extra choice of a state in Mexico for their project. In fact, Teacher Michelle Weaver launched the project in 2019 to integrate English and dual-language classes as well as a plethora of subject areas.


“Students research everything from the indigenous peoples of that region to the state flag, flower, bird, seal, etc., including writing an informational essay on location, climate, geography, and landmarks,” Weaver said. “This gives them a well-rounded understanding of their chosen state. It's also a great way for them to explore various aspects of geography, history, culture, and more.”


The students also use a trifold with maps, charts, and more to share their projects.


“This allows them to convey information in a more engaging and comprehensive manner, catering to different learning styles and fostering creativity!” she said. 


She successfully created a tradition and put it on again along with fellow Fifth-Grade Teachers Sarah Naboulsi, Cristina Mayorga and Chase Duvall. Not only were all four classes, but students had the chance to stand by their trifold and present it to visitors, including all the students at Edwards and their presenters’ own families. Weaver said that affords students the opportunity to hone their literacy, communication, and research skills. 


“As part of the project, students have opportunities to discuss their findings with peers, teachers, and, potentially, even members of the community during their presentations,” she said. “This fosters their ability to articulate their thoughts and ideas effectively in a verbal discussion setting, promoting critical thinking and communication skills.”


Family Visitors

Demi Boysen drove over from Aurora just to see a project created by her granddaughter, Brinsley Jenkins.


“She’s special to us,” said Boysen, noting that Brinsley is her oldest grandchild. “We wouldn’t miss it for the world because she’s the first grandchild to graduate from fifth grade. She’s just an amazing kid. She’s a hard worker; she’s a great student; she thrilled in doing the project.”


Brinsley did have a thrilling state. She chose New York and offered an extra element to her project by providing cheese samples, as New York is known for producing that dairy staple.


“She goes above and beyond,” said Brinsley’s mom, Marissa Jenkins. 


The cheese was a nice add-on for visitors, but, for Brinsley, the highlight was a NY icon.


“The Statue of Liberty was my favorite thing to write about because it symbolizes France's friendship with us and the end of slavery,” Brinsley said.


Each project was as different as the states themselves. Becky and Miranda Decker, twins, aimed for different coastlines but both poured a great deal of work into their projects. Becky took on Massachusetts, and Miranda chose Tennessee.


“It’s great because I know both of them went in head first; I know they spent time on it after school,” said their mom, Melissa Decker. “It’s been a great learning experience.”


What did they learn?


“You’d have to ask them!” she said.


Miranda was eager to discover more about Tennessee because she loves country music and knew that Elvis and Dolly had roots in Tennessee.


“There’s a lot of history in Tennessee, especially with music artists in Nashville,” Miranda said. “The CMA Hall of Fame is one of the most visited places in the U.S. on the eastern side.”


Miranda served guests samples of moon pies and fried chicken, tasty morsels for which her state is known. Becky said that she found out that Massachusetts is where the chocolate chip was invented, and the eponymous cookie is their state cookie (yes, there were samples). Other state assignations include the flower: lilac and the bird: bluebird. 

A Lesson in Change

In a way, Becky observed that the people who had the most to learn just might have been the visitors. Yet that lesson wasn’t one in academics but one of observation.


“For the people walking around, it is also fun and educating because you get to look at how far we’ve come,” she noted. “In kindergarten, we were scribbling.”


They’re not scribbling pictures anymore, but creating detailed drawings and long reports. 


For visitors who strolled through the Edwards cafeteria where the event was held, you could pick out students’ voices speaking authoritatively on their state of choice. You could hear Logan Watson talking about Indianapolis where the Indy 500 is held and Brandon Islas discussing the famous people who live in Florida such as Dwayne Johnson.


Every student clearly knew their state and had not only absorbed a ton of information but was now teaching others.


“It’s really important to show what the kids have learned this year and how hard they’ve worked,” said Marissa Jenkins, not only Brinsley’s mom but a Speech-Language Pathologist at another local elementary, Joan Austin. “Each one of these projects is unique for students, and it’s fun to see how their brains work. Each one of our kids has their own learning journey, and it’s fun to just be a part of that.”