Saturday, May 21, 2005

Bryan's State Fair Project

For the past several weeks, Bryan and I have been working on his "State Fair Project". This is like a Science Fair project, only in this case, it is a Geography Fair. Bryan was assigned to report on the State of Maryland. Last year mama took the lead on the Science Fair project that Bryan did. So this year is was my turn. (I believe the school district alternates between science fairs and geography fairs, every other year. Both 5th graders and 6th graders participate in this project. -- That means that next year, both Bryan and Amy may be doing science projects. I guess that means that both mom and dad will be overseeing major projects next year.)

Here were the requirements of the project:

  1. A 3-5 page report, complete with title page, table of contents, and bibliography.

  2. Hand drawn pictures of the state bird, tree, flower, flag, and a map of the state

  3. Prepare a 3-5 minute oral presentation for the class -- student was not allowed to simply read his report.

  4. Prepare a 10-question True/False quiz to give the class -- based on the oral presentation.

  5. Create a tri-fold display on poster board (22x28) containing pictures and interesting facts about the state

  6. Create a shoe-box size float (like in a parade) with items that depict the state.

As you can see, it was a pretty ambitious assignment. I have posted Bryan's Report Here

We started by looking for images on the internet for Bryan to trace. We located the images of the State symbols. Dawn Ann has a projector that enlarges pictures and projects them on the wall. You tape a piece of paper on the wall, project, and trace. (Dawn Ann uses the projector to trace patters that she used for her wood carvings.) Bryan traced and colored his pictures, so we checked off that requirement.

Next we started doing research about the State of Maryland, also on the Internet. We researched the original colonization, who the founders were, and what their motivations were. As it turns out, a primary motivation to provide a Haven for Catholics. In 1634, Catholics were outcast in England. In fact, Catholic Priests could not minister openly, or they could be arrested. Catholic marriages were not recognized by the government, and Catholics were not allowed to openly worship. Catholics were also limited in how they could participate in society, such as voting rights, and the right to serve in government positions. In fact, the Original Governor of Maryland, Leonard Calvert had a wife who lived in England. She never did come to the Colony. He would go back and visit his wife and children every few years in England. No official government records have been found of his Marriage, meaning that he was probably married by a Catholic Priest, but the marriage was never recorded in public records.

All of the original settlers, and landowners of Maryland were Catholic. By 1649, however, they created a religious tolerance law in the Colony. The first of its type anywhere. All Christian denominations were welcome to Maryland, and all would be fully enfranchised to vote, own properly, hold public office, and participate in every way. This was way ahead of the other colonies at the time. The Puritans in New England, for example, were not tolerant of other faiths. Those who didn't live up to Puritan standards and beliefs were sent off to other Colonies, such as Connecticut. The Maryland religious tolerance law was a direct forerunner of the 1st Amendment to the constitution, which guarantees religious freedom, and precludes the government from establishing any one religion or sect as an official state religion, to the exclusion of all others. No one would be disenfranchised because of how they worship.

We also studied about Maryland in the Civil war. We were surprised to learn that Maryland was a Slave State, but narrowly voted to stay in the Union. However, they were closely divided. Maryland actually had troops that fought on BOTH sides of the civil war. Those who were slaveholders, tended to go with the confederate Armies, and those who were against slavery joined the Union Army. Virginia was also split by the issue of slavery, but their division was more geographic in nature. In fact, that's how the state ofWest Virginia was born. Pioneers, who generally were not slave holders lived in the Western Portion of Virginia, on the other side of the Mountains. The Eastern part of the state was populated more by aristocratic land owners, who had slaves.

Maryland, on the other hand was divided within various communities. You might have hear of stories of brother fighting brother, and fathers fighting against sons in the Civil War. This likely happened to those from Maryland who fought in the war. In fact, some of the Maryland units in the civil war fought against each other at the battle of Gettysburg.

We coalesced all of our research, created some "talking points memos" for his oral presentation. Then we created a 10-question True/False to quiz based on his oral remarks.

Bryan decorated his "float" with a collage of images representing Maryland. I printed out the materials from the computer to mount on the tri-fold poster board. Bryan and mama attached the pictures and fact sheets to the tri-fold. I touched up the written report, added the bibleography, title page, table of contents, and put it in a cover. Then we bundled it up to be turned in.

The night before it was due, Bryan and mama were up until about 12:30 am. It took me until about 2:30 - 3:00 am to finish getting all of the written report finished. I inserted graphics into the report, to give it some life. Bryan's blog entry of the written report looks much like the one that was on paper, except that this one has links to the sources that you can click on.

We were grateful to have the Internet to gather images, and do research. I can't imagine having to go to the library to do all this. That's a great change from when I was a kid. Now we can do research from home, with a far greater wealth of material available. Much of the material comes from official government sources. The authenticity and authoritativeness of the information is hard to question.

Both Dawn Ann and I are really looking forward to next year, with the prospect of having to do two science projects. I guess we'll each take a kid, and go to work. Maybe we'll need a second computer, broadband internet access, and a home computer network to accomplish all that. (Well, I can dream can't I?)

Wednesday Bryan gave his oral presentation and gave his quiz. Only one kid got 100% on the quiz. (We had three False Questions, and I guess we caught some of them napping, or not paying attention.)

Today, Friday, was the time for parents to come and see all of the projects. All of the 5th graders (3 classes) had taken a state. The 6th graders each reported on a country, instead of a state. Bryan's display stacked up pretty well with the others. I thought Bryan's was much more informative than many of them. Some were fancier, but Bryan can be proud of what he accomplished.

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