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It's Not Too Late to Create a State: Online Project Teaches Cooperation!

Technology Center

"The Create A State project provided students who will never meet each other face-to-face with an opportunity to work together and learn from one another," says teacher Pamela Galus. "Students use the Internet as a tool to build cooperation and collaboration. Students in 18 states have already completed the project!" Included: Learn how to get involved!

Image Karen Biddinger, a technology teacher from Evans Elementary School in Marlton, New Jersey, searched for a unique way in which students could learn about other states. The result is the online collaborative project that Biddinger calls Create A State. To date, students in 18 states have contributed to the project.

"Every year I choose one grade level in my school to participate in some kind of online project," Biddinger tells Education World. "This year, I wanted a project that would teach my fifth graders more about the states, something that's a big part of their curriculum. Although they knew a fair amount about their own state, they didn't know much about others. I tried to figure out a fun way to help them learn." Biddinger cut the shape of every state out of foam-board. She planned to send each foam-board map to a school in that state. Students would transform that piece of bare foam-board into a creative collage representing the special things about their state. Biddinger's students would post each state collage on their Create A State Project Web page. Finally, they would put the state maps together and create a huge United States map for all to enjoy.

After Biddinger figured out all the logistics of the Create A State Project, she sent her idea to the National Education Association. The idea was published in NEA Today, the organization's membership magazine.

"I thought it would be nice for my students to be able to hold each state in their hands and see what it has to offer," Biddinger explains to Education World, "but I couldn't believe the response. It was great -- and immediate! I even had to turn some schools away. I had to limit the project to one per state since making the cutouts was costly and time consuming. I assigned the states on a first-come basis."


"As soon as I learned about this project, I claimed Wisconsin," Julie Hoel, a gifted and talented coordinator in Webster, tells Education World. "I jumped right on it! I heard back electronically that day and received the state piece about two weeks later. My small group of fourth graders checked out the states that were already posted to get some ideas and then used the Internet and Wisconsin Blue Book to help us decide what to share about our state."

A class of Kansas fourth graders working on the Create A State Project spent quite some time deciding what best represented their state, librarian Barbara Karlin tells Education World. Karlin teaches at Heusner Elementary School in Salina.

Students in Nebraska took a good bit of time too. "When the state cutout first arrived, we were all overwhelmed," says Burke High School (Omaha) earth science instructor Pamela Galus. "We couldn't figure out what symbols best represented our state. In the end, students had more information than they could put on their small cutout.

"Putting the map together was not as important as the conversations that ensued," Galus adds. "The Create A State project provided students who will never meet each other face-to-face with an opportunity to work together and learn from one another."

Twelve states have yet to be claimed. If you are from Arkansas, Colorado, Idaho, Louisiana, Mississippi, Montana, New Hampshire, North Dakota, South Dakota, Vermont, West Virginia, or Wyoming, you may still be able to get involved.


At the Create A State Project Web page, click Schools Participating to see whether your state is still available. If it is, click How To Join and sign up. Within three weeks, you should receive a foam-board cutout of your state, ranging from 2 inches long (Rhode Island) to 3 1/2 feet long (California).

Think of a way to create a collage or project on the cutout that can teach others about your state's cities, landmarks, weather, people, industries, nature, and culture. Then mark the locations of important points of interest. Use postcards, clip art, photos, brochures, typed text, markers, paint, decorative items, leaves, small plastic toys and animals, or just about anything else to show how interesting your state is.

Do not alter the shape of the cutout in any way, cautions Biddinger -- all the states fit together to form a giant map. Be careful to create the collage on the correct side! On the other side of the foam cutout, add your school address, the names of the students involved, information about them and a photo, plus the state information sheet that Biddinger provides. Then seal your project with a light coat of decoupage and mail it back.

Julie Hoel says her small group of fourth graders needed about three one-hour sessions to complete the project.

Biddinger hopes most schools will return their projects before the end of the school year in June so her class can scan or photograph each piece and assemble the individual foam-board states. When complete, the map should measure about 15 feet wide. Her class will also post each project on their Internet site.


How have Biddinger's students reacted to this project? One student, Maddison, tells Education World, "It's cool to send things to other schools and get them back."

"I like the details the students put in their states. I have learned a lot from them," says Gina.

"It's neat and interesting how every state is special. It's so cool that our school is doing it," comments Becky.

"It was fun making New Jersey," Jenna adds.

Students in other states have had a great time too. "This project was cool because we learned about our own state, and I can't wait to see it on the Internet," explains Rebecca, from Wisconsin.

If your state is still available, why not get your students!


Article by Glori Chaika
Education World®
Copyright © 2001 Education World


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