When Lewis and Clark led their historic expedition through the uncharted American interior to the Pacific Northwest beginning in 1804, there wasn’t much chance they’d bump into their adventure-seeking French counterpart, Jacques Cartier. Even though Cartier explored the St. Lawrence River and gave Canada it’s name more than 350 years earlier, the three history-makers stood side by side in spirit at yesterday’s fifth and sixth grade Culture Fair at the Fletcher School.

Nathan Gillilan displays an old-fashioned toaster oven.

Fifth graders focused on learning about early explorers, answering three main questions: What were the results of their explorations? How did they change the world? and What positive and negative impact did the explorer have on native cultures? Sixth graders explored their own ancestry, asking what their relatives had endured in the past that empowers them today, how their family history contributed to the community and how different cultures make a community better.


Each Culture Fair project consisted of four main components including a research display board, bibliography of resources, digital presentation and a culminating presentation for families, the community and other classes during the Culture Fair itself. While many students included props from home, each display board also included the flag of origin, an essay, maps, pictures, diagrams and other supporting evidence of either the student’s explorer or their own ancestry.


Fifth graders worked with partners to learn about their chosen explorer, and were asked to provide each other feedback on the teaming experience. A rubric allowed students to assess their partner’s ability to work cooperatively, their helpfulness and attitude.


Fifth grader Kaila Sheltra studied Juan Ponce de Leon, who discovered Florida. According to Sheltra, learning about early explorers and cultures is important because, “we need to know what made this world what it is.”

Communication as a transferrable skill was a theme that ran through this project.

The Fletcher School has focused on communication proficiencies for all students this year and the fifth and sixth graders focused, in part, on explaining and informing their audience by researching and examining their topic and conveying ideas and information clearly. They received feedback on the organization, relevance, use of evidence, use of quotations and new vocabulary used in their writing. Students were also given feedback on their oral presentations and reflected on how compelling their found the assignment.


“The Culture Fair is important because other people might not know about these people and it is important to know about the people who impacted the world,” fifth grader Zachary Bushey said. For the Culture Fair, Bushey dressed as one of the Hawaiian natives who killed James Cook, an explorer who discovered many of the Pacific Islands. “He did not find the Northwest Passage, though. The Hawaiians killed him first.”

Sixth grader Sirena Sawyer appreciated the addition of personal ancestry to the Fair this year. “It was much more interesting because we were learning about our personal ancestry as opposed to just reading an article about someone else.” Sawyer interviewed her Grandmother, a native of Greece, to help understand her history.


Many presentations included a culturally relevant dish, as was the case with fifth graders Melissa Hall and Matthew Spiller’s apple crisp and early American cornbread, representing Lewis and Clark.

“It is important for the fourth graders to see what they will be doing next year,” fifth grader Jasmine Duncan said of the Culture Fair. “We also need to know who we came from and where we came from. It’s out history. It’s part of us.”

“The Culture Fair connects students with the past. Understanding how we got to where we are and to understand where you personally came from can help you go forward,” fifth grade teacher Tracey Godin said.

Target 2. Leadership: FWSU students and staff lead innovative, personalized learning opportunities.

Indicators of Success: (1) Students and staff act as coaches, facilitators, collaborators and co-learners in a personalized learning environment. (2) Students and staff design and implement plans together. (3) Students explore a greater understanding of community, social issues, and the self in community.

Action Steps: (1) Design multiple avenues for students and staff to lead, advocate and serve within the school community. (2) Shift teacher roles from direct of teaching to facilitator of learning. (3) Demonstrate learning habits, communication and problem-solving skills necessary for collaborative learning and leadership.

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