Saturday, April 20, 2013

Dioramas, Posters, and Skits, Oh My! (Our State Museum!)

My two grade-level colleagues and I decided to try something new this year as a culmination of our study of Maine. We created our own Maine Museum! It was a lot of work, but we saw high levels of engagement, particularly from students who struggle academically. For many of them, the hands-on component was an opportunity for them to really shine!
Students worked in small groups to research and present information about a variety of topics, including natural resources, geography, economy, animals, and important places. We came up with 21 different topics which we split up between the 3 fourth grades, so that no two groups did the same topic.
Once students had conducted research and taken notes about their topics, they had choices about how they would communicate their information. They had to have some sort of visual display to put on the table for the actual museum. This could be a poster, diorama, game, lift-the-flap board, etc. They also needed a technology component that could be viewed on laptops, which would be set up at the museum, This could be a skit, Photo Story, rap song, etc. We also made the decision to have the whole project be done entirely at school. Many of our students do not have resources/support at home, so this way, we could ensure that everyone had materials and guidance.
The kids were so excited to create their products!
Most of my class chose to make dioramas for their visuals, but there were also a couple of posters, a board game, and a lift-the-flap game.
The shipbuilding group made a poster AND a board game, complete with clay ships as game pieces. They also wrote a wonderful skit full of facts about the history of shipbuilding.

The Portland group wrote a skit in which one person was a new visitor and the other was a tour guide who told him all about Maine's largest city.

A lift-the-flap board about landlocked salmon.
Fishing has been an important industry in Maine for over 400 years! The fishing group also created a wonderful video full of fish facts!

Baxter State Park is home to Maine's tallest mountain, Mt. Katahdin. It is the setting for our first read-aloud of the year,   Lost on a Mountain in Maine.

Blueberries are the Maine state berry. 99% of all the wild blueberries in the country come from Maine.

It's hard to see the title, but this is the river diorama showing how the logs, which had been cut down in the forest during the winter, were dragged to the river in the spring to be floated down river to the lumber mills.
Each classroom had a group researching 3 important Maine animals. We had the landlocked salmon, our state fish, the honeybee; our state insect, and the black bear, which is the mascot for our largest college, the University of Maine.
For their technology component, most groups wrote and recorded skits. (They were awesome, but out of respect of my students' privacy, I can't post any of them.) The night of the museum, each table had two laptops with the video for that exhibit on the desktop. We had headphones attached, so as families visited each exhibit, they could sit down and watch the video. A couple of groups created a Photo Story, which is a free and easy program that creates a professional-looking product! Here is the Blueberry Photo Story.
We presented our museum for each other as a practice a couple of days before the real one. Students went around with clipboards and took notes on important facts about each topic. The day before, we invited the 3rd grades into our classrooms to view our videos, visit the exhibits, and ask questions.
Overall, it was a great success and I think the students will really remember the topics much better than if they had just read about them.
I would love to hear other ideas for what you do to teach about your state!


  1. Hi Cathy, Those projects came out great! I just found your blog & I'm your newest follower!

    Science for Kids Blog

  2. Thanks Sue! We had a lot of fun with them! I'm off to check out your blog. I'm always looking for science inspiration!

  3. Following your blog- love these projects! Laura