“Why?” is the response of elementary-aged students to virtually every statement, which is why many parents are happily walking their kids back through the school doors right about now. When Lori Lyn’s second graders at Houston’s Hicks Elementary used to ask WHY Texas was so great, she quoted the usual (ranks second in population and size, ecological diversity, Willie Nelson, Whataburger, etc.) These answers failed to convince her cynical social studies students. So this summer, Lori set out on a road trip to prove WHY all should hail the mighty state.
“Most of my students have had very limited, if any, opportunities to experience Texas’ landmarks and monuments, but are still required to learn and understand their historical significance,” said Lori. “I needed engaging answers to their questions of WHY Texas’ history, symbols and landscapes have meaning in order to make the learning last.”
Three thousand miles and multiple nights at Days Inn, Econolodge, Motel 6 and a tent later, Lori is ready for this year’s class of inquiring minds. Her sedan took her to 11 cities, where she collected artifacts from sites including, but not limited to:
- Fort Worth’s Stockyards National Historic District and Texas Cowboy Hall of Fame
- Dallas’ Sixth Floor Museum
- Austin’s State Capitol, Governor’s Mansion and Bob Bullock Museum
- San Antonio’s Institute of Texas Cultures
- Port Isabel’s Historical Museum and Point Isabel Lighthouse
- Galveston’s Texas Seaport Museum and the state’s oldest public library
- La Porte’s Battleship Texas and San Jacinto Monument
- Houston’s George Ranch Historical Park, and,
- Big Bend National Park
Lori is one of 489 Fund for Teachers grant recipients who designed experiences to impact student achievement this summer. Since its founding in 1981, the national non-profit has awarded more than $28 million in self-designed fellowships to 8,000 prek-12 teachers across the country – impacting approximately a quarter of a million students.
This fall, Lori’s students will model her adventure by charting their own Texas Tour, using maps and brochures she brought back from the road. They will also create journals and postcards to document and share what the “see.”
“Not only will I be teaching about the knowledge I gained, but my students will be empowered and excited to teach others in the school community about the state in which we live,” said Lori. “The ultimate goal is that they will ‘Remember the Alamo’ and a whole lot more.”
If you know a dedicated, innovative teacher like Lori who would be interested in designing their own Fund for Teachers fellowship, encourage them to apply using the online application available on October 1 at fundforteachers.org. And if you would like to be from Texas, but aren’t, here’s a song just for you.
Pictured above at Battleship Texas, the last of its kind that served in World War I & II and a National Historic Landmark. Collage (clockwise): Johnson Space Center in Houston; Brazoria National Wildlife Refuge; 10,000 year-old Inner Space Cavern, discovered in 1963 when the Texas Highway Department built I-35; by the world’s tallest statue of an American Hero – two-time Texas president Sam Houston; The Sixth Floor Museum; the State Capitol; and Sea Center Texas – the world’s largest redfish hatchery.
Lori is a second grade teacher at Hicks Elementary School in Alief, outside of Houston. This is her 16th year in the district, in which she has been a team leader, as well as a lead teacher in both Reading and Science. Lori is one of the few three-time FFT Fellows and has also been awarded five Donors Choose grants and an Association of Texas Professional Educators grant. Follow her on Twitter here