Third-Graders Discover the “Real” America by Mail

by Shari Bozorgzad, Grade 3 Teacher

In February, we asked our third-grade students, “How can we research the unique qualities of each state in our nation?” We got the typical responses such as, “We could check out books from the library or look up information on the Internet.” I love that our students know where to find information, but I was looking for something a little more unusual.

Before coming to Langley, I had witnessed a project that I thought would be perfect for our third-graders. I explained to our students that the best way to learn about a city, town, or state is to get firsthand information from the residents. In order to solicit this firsthand feedback, our third-graders sent letters to several small-town newspapers in each state, asking residents to help them learn more about their state by sending postcards, maps, photos, souvenirs, and other useful information.

 Just one week later, I returned to my classroom after lunch to find my chair full of packages.

We received various items from across the country, including an original painting from an 83-year-old Mississippi man that depicted the Natchez Trace Parkway and a sample of cotton from a Mississippi woman’s family farm with a note telling of the fond memories she had of picking cotton as a little girl.

From Louisiana, we received a Mardi Gras King Cake, Mardi Gras beads, and New Orleans Saints lanyards.

We also got a box from the state of West Virginia with various pamphlets and magazines.

Since that first mail delivery on February 26, Langley’s receptionist sends us a daily mid-morning e-mail stating, “The mail has arrived,” and we excitedly collect the packages to see what new items have arrived from places like Wisconsin, Missouri, Washington, Alaska, New Jersey, and Iowa, to name a few.

I think that I have been most impressed with the notes and letters that our students have received. Some handwritten letters are four to six pages long. They tell about the appreciation that each American holds for his or her state, and they give very specific, heartwarming stories. Here is a small sampling of letters, notes, and items that students have received:

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These pictures depict the true heart of America. I can honestly say that I am overwhelmed by the generosity and spirit of the people in this great nation. As we continue to study the 50 states – a unit that will culminate with a State Fair in which students will display facts about the state they researched – our third-graders will have a more in-depth understanding of our country thanks to the tremendous response of its citizens.


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