HUME – Great things happen when Amy Kincaid, a teacher at Shiloh Elementary School, turns her fourth grade students lose on a project.
The students organized an Illinois bicentennial celebration at the school Monday, Dec. 3. Modeled after a birthday party the event included games like throwing a sticky ball and trying to hit Illinois on a map of the United States, memory games and an adaptation of cornhole by throwing a beanbag at a board with three holes cut into it labeled Springfield, Kaskaskia and Vandalia for the current and former state capitals. Pin the tail on the donkey was modified to putting a star a big state map and trying to get as close as possible to Springfield’s location.
“The kids wanted hands on activities,” said Kincaid. “The said they wanted things to do. The kids took off and figured out what to do.”
Some of the stations for the event in the school’s multipurpose room included a chance to sample the state fruit – a gold rush apple – and to create images of the state butterfly – the blue violet butterfly.
An information station for agriculture provided facts about corn and soybeans and also noted Illinois is the number one producer of pumpkins in the United States. Other students created a timeline featuring important dates in Illinois history and there was an Illinois Hall of Fame featuring sports figures, entertainers and the four U.S. presidents who have an Illinois connection.
The students also created large drawings depicting the officially state designated fish, animal, mineral, flower, dance, prairie grass and many other such items. An area devoted to the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition at Chicago also had a couple of games to play.
Kincaid said work on the project started approximately one month ago during a unit about regions of the country.
“We were learning about the Midwest,” said Kindcaid. “We put that on pause to learn about Illinois.”
She added fourth grade is when students are generally introduced to Illinois history.
After explaining what she envisioned for the celebration, Kincaid let the students research topics and create ideas. They also tested everything in advance to make sure the activities worked.
“Last week is when we really started making stuff,” Kincaid said.
Teaching history to young children is a challenging task. Kincaid noted they have not developed a sense of perspective for time so it is difficult for them to place the lesser known characters or historical events in the right time frame.
History is an ever-expanding topic but available time in the class day is not.
“With my curriculum for each region, we learn about the Native Americans, we talked about the Revolution and for the Southeast we just touched on the Civil War,” Kincaid said. “What we can cover is just the tip of the iceberg for history concepts.”