For the fourth year in a row, fourth graders at Carrie Ricker Elementary School in Litchfield assemble around one-hundred homemade parade floats. Such a quantity of floats can fit inside the school cafeteria because each one is little bigger than a shoebox. All spring long these students have been studying Maine culture and history leading up to the Maine Shoebox Parade as the culmination of their learning. This month long project begins in early May when each teacher on the Fourth Grade Team (Beth Pfeffer, Chuck Beganny, Jody Raio, Judy Davidson, and Sarah Radasch) provides their classes with nearly 40 Maine-related topics from which to choose. With each class at around 20 students, the choices are abundant.
For many students at Carrie Ricker this was their first formal experience with research. By introducing students to research-based learning in fourth grade, these students will have abundant background and foundational knowledge for what is to come.
Some of the students who covered local businesses even reached out to the proprietors. One student who researched Fielder’s Choice Ice Cream had the opportunity to interview that business’ owner. In addition to research and construction, students must write a short informative paragraph about their topic. Either the student (if they choose to read themselves) or their teacher will read their words in front of the assembled fourth grade classes at the parade. A combination of research, writing, creative construction, and public speaking skills make the Maine Shoebox Parade a festival about social studies learning, creativity, and presentation as well as State celebration. Fourth grade teacher Judy Davidson explained this is why parents, teachers, and students alike get so excited about the project each year.
This year three judges presided over the festivities. Principal Christine Lajoie-Cameron, Administrative Assistant Keli Terry, and Maine Department of Education Social Studies Specialist, Joe Schmidt were tasked with choosing the best of the floats. One crowd favorite was the Litchfield Diving Horses, a local attraction from the early 20th Century. Still other projects were made more powerful considering personal student or teacher connections to the topic. The student whose project featured Moody’s Diner was related to the patron family. However, Maxx Crowley took home the Student Choice Award for his lighthouse float.
All judges, teachers, parents, and DOE observers agreed the parade was a display of excellent student behavior and work. The student contenders were respectful and friendly. They demonstrated an appreciation for the hard work of their peers. Each year, following the parade, fourth graders bring their floats through the third grade wing. This reprise of the parade gives younger students a glimpse of life next year, as well as something about which to get excited. After the presentation we walked down a hallway and saw the abundant art on display. It is evident the people at Carrie Ricker value student art and creativity, a tool they use to motivate students and strengthen school community. Ms. Terry, Administrative Assistant, commented how special it was to see students and their work, out from behind the front office desk. All those present look forward to the next annual Maine Shoebox parade, and whatever else the students at Carrie Ricker create.
This story was written by Maine DOE Intern Simon Handleman in collaboration with Carrie Ricker School. If you have a story idea or would like to submit a written story for the Maine DOE Newsroom, email Rachel Paling at firstname.lastname@example.org.