CHATHAM, NJ - Peggy Melvin has been a teacher at Milton Avenue School for 25 years, but she was surprised to learn how much she didn't know about New Jersey.

Melvin spent the months leading up to Milton Avenue School's annual theme day by learning as much as she could about the Garden State.

It all came together for Melvin and her committee on Friday with participation by Milton students and parents in the day-long event: "Celebrating New Jersey."

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"I learned so many things I didn't know before," Melvin said. "For instance, we have a state schooner, a state shell (whelk) and our state fruit is the blueberry. People know our nickname is the Garden State, but New Jersey also was known as the 'Pathway to the Revolution' and the 'Clam State.' "

Students moved from room to room every half hour to learn from authors and parent volunteers about lighthouses, square dancing, entertainers, sports figures, and past New Jersey activities such as writing with feather quills dipped in ink and creating art by piercing tin with a nail.

Parent Tara Stepanian told about New Jersey athletes by putting their picture up on a screen and telling about their history while students filled in a bingo game board covered with photos of the athletes. The presentation included Chatham natives such as former tennis pro Peter Fleming and Metrostars soccer player Billy Walsh, now a local club coach.

She also showed a video of former NBA basketball player Rick Barry of Roselle Park and his very unusual and effective underhanded free throw shot.

Parent Samantha Dowling played tunes from Frank Sinatra, Bruce Springsteen and Lauren Hill while talking about their jersey roots.

Some facts you might not know about New Jersey:

  • Former NBA player Dennis Rodman was born in Trenton
  • New Jersey has 42,500 horses, more than Kentucky
  • There are 11 light houses in the state
  • The state tree is the Red Oak and gets its name because it is red inside
  • Remnants of Dinosaurs were discovered in Haddonfield
  • The honeybee is the state insect
  • There are 10,300 farms in New Jersey
  • The horse is the state animal

At lunch, students ate boardwalk food: pretzels and pizza.

Members of the Theme Day Committee included: Lee Ann Wertheim, Beth Zimmer, Judy Casey, Marilyn Hinderlang, Nancy Fanning, Marty Visitacian and Katie Hadley.