Fourth-graders learn about N.C. regions
Tuesday, Feb. 25, 2014

Fourth-graders learn about N.C. regions

    Cassie Haigler, left, used Christmas lights to illuminate her version of the Bodie lighthouse, while Madelyn Himes, took apart a flashlight for her replica of Hatteras.
    Bethel Elementary fourth-grader Kaitlyn Walters said that the hardest part of building a model of the Cape Lookout Lighthouse was painting the diamond shapes.

Sweet tea, lighthouses, shagging, Native Americans and fish sticks. What’s the common thread?

All these things and more came together as part of a collaborative learning project for fourth-graders at Bethel Elementary School in Midland.

All North Carolina fourth-graders learn about the geographic regions of the state, and when it came time to study the coastal plain, Bethel fourth grade teachers planned a research project that would combine science, social studies, math, English language arts, media, technology, and physical education to create a comprehensive learning experience.

With the help of media specialist Melissa Buchanan, students learned to research four topics: the Lost Colony, lighthouses, Native Americans, and the environment and weather of the region. To show what they’d learned, students worked in pairs to create iMovies on MacBook Air computers.

Individually, fourth-graders built working models of North Carolina’s lighthouses. To complete their study of the coastal region, students learned about cuisine and shagging.

Parents descended on the Bethel Elementary cafeteria to see the results of the students’ work. Set up in pairs, the fourth-graders played their movies, showed off lighthouses, and enjoyed eating the beach food they’d helped to prepare: sweet potato chips, fish sticks, sweet tea, and peach cobbler.

Cassie Haigler and Madelyn Himes from Meghan Mitchell’s class said the hardest part of the project was building their lighthouses, but the best part was making their movie.

They had a lot of fun working together to find slides, answer the required questions, do research and create the narration. They agreed the most interesting thing they studied was the Lost Colony, but the girls had differing theories on its disappearance.

Madelyn believes the Croatans killed the colonists, but Cassie is of the opinion that the Roanokes did it and blamed the Croatans.

Both girls built impressive lighthouses. Fourth grade teacher Deanna Beyersdorf said students studied magnets, electricity and how to build a circuit before they started the lighthouse projects, so they were required to build lighthouses that actually light.

After the fourth-graders shared their food and newly-acquired knowledge, they proceeded to the gym where Too Much Sylvia was ready to play for their listening and dancing pleasure.

Keyboardist Rick Lee said an elementary school gymnasium is not the band’s usual sort of gig, but joked, “Where else are you going to play on a Wednesday morning?”

The students were a little hesitant to try shagging, but before long, and with the encouragement of their teachers, their shrieking, giggling 9-year-old enthusiasm took over as they raced across the floor.

Principal Kevin Blackburn said collaborative projects like this are a great example of well-balanced comprehensive education. Beyersdorf agreed, pointing out that it took everyone in the school building, from custodians to administrators, as well as help from the community, from donations for expenses to volunteer shaggers, to make this event such a success.

Marcia Morris is a freelance writers. Have a story idea for Marcia? Email her at

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