WESTFIELD, NJ – Students of Wilson Elementary brought their parents to school Wednesday night for its first Celebrate America event, where they showed off their year-long projects showcasing America’s history, culture and patriotic symbols.
Teachers welcomed parents and students to their classrooms to view projects ranging from the second graders’ study of the Statue of Liberty to the third graders' informational writings about Native American tribes
Wilson’s principal, Joseph Malanga, generated the idea for the evening’s open house based on his work as a teacher in Bloomfield. The various studies on American history incorporated not only social studies but also art and music into the curriculum.
“They learn about the country they live in,” he said. “For elementary school kids, that foundation is so important.”
Fifth grader Owen Romano learned about Colonial life in Matthew Borchin’s class. Hand-dipped candles, colorful weavings and tinning projects were arranged on the desks in his classroom.
Owen’s favorite part of the study of colonial life, however, was cooking.
“I enjoyed the johnnycakes because we got to eat the food, and we got to make the food,” he said.
Owen also appreciated learning about the lives of children who lived in Colonial times and said he understood how hard their lives must have been compared to today’s kids'.
“It was probably harder than it is for us now because they had to do jobs, and we don’t have to do jobs,” he said.
First graders, meanwhile, were each given a state to research and, from this, created informational booklets on all 50 states.
Erin Kearney, six, knew many facts about Virginia, her assigned state.
“The state capital was Richmond,” she said. “The state bird was the cardinal.”
Thinking a moment, Erin came up with another important fact.
“A lot of presidents were born in Virginia,” she said.
The night included a silent auction of services donated by the staff. Many of the donations were amusing outings with teachers and staff.
Malanga said the evening brought together members of the Wilson community for a night of fun and learning, and he praised the school’s teachers for their commitment to planning the evening.
“To see it come together, to see what the kids did, it’s really inspiring,” said Trista Pollard, an Achieve teacher at Wilson who also served on the Celebrate America committee.