Skip to main content

South Jordan Journal

From counties to capitol: Monte Vista fourth-graders embrace learning about their state

Jun 06, 2024 08:44AM ● By Julie Slama

At Monte Vista Elementary, visitors toured the state, thanks to the fourth-graders’ projects. (Julie Slama/City Journals)

It is possible to see the entire state in 45 minutes.

In Monte Vista Elementary’s multi-purpose room, dozens and dozens of trifolds and dioramas filled tables, each displaying a different county in Utah. 

On each trifold, there are postcards fourth-grade students made that highlight different aspects of the county from geography to businesses, history to recreation. Those same students were on hand to walk you through the highlights they researched on that particular county.

Fourth-graders Milan Ahohako and Crew Jenkins shared the tourist highlights of Box Elder County with classmates, parents and other visitors.

“They have the spiral jetty, Willard Bay and Golden Spike there,” Milan said. “But it was first settled by the Shoshone before the Mormons came.”

Crew said that 75% of their land is used for farming, “mostly corn and alfalfa, but they do have a lot of fruit. As far as businesses, Box Elder has everything we have in Salt Lake County, only the businesses are smaller. What’s cool is they have a company that makes parts for NASA to use in space.”

The boys decided to each work on the display on their own, then put it together for the final project.

“The best part of it all was building it together,” Milan said.

In what normally would take almost four hours to drive, it was only a few footsteps to visit Rich County at the county fair.

There, Blakely Douros joined Itzy and Adi Burton to tell about the highlights they researched.

“There’s no mayor for Rich County, but there might be for each city within it,” Adi said. “There is a commissioner for the county though.”

Blakely said there are a lot of animals – from squirrels to muskrats — living in the county. Itzy added that farm animals also live there as hay, alfalfa, barley and oats are some of the main crops.

Rich County’s Bear Lake is widely known for being a recreational highlight for Utahns, they said. The girls added swimming and camping are amongst their favorite activities there.

“But the water is really cold there,” Blakely added.

Adi said they worked hard on their Rich County project.

“I love to draw so it was fun to add that to all our research,” she said.

Itzy said she found researching was difficult.

“But I never gave up,” she said.

Their teacher, Christie Matheson, said fourth-grade projects were divided into region by class. Her class’s counties were Rocky Mountains while the other two classes covered the Great Basin and Colorado Plateau counties.

In her class, each student researched in books or on websites, and wrote their own report, creating a postcard each of the four weeks on a different element of the county. Then, the students put themselves in groups of two or three to create their dioramas and their trifolds. 

“What and how they presented their county was up to them,” she said. “We practiced in class as they presented to each other, and they worked on their speaking and listening skills. They also answered questions from the audience. Then we came together to celebrate it here. The coolest part is to see the progression. We’ve done other reports, but this one took it to the next level for them. They have learned vocabulary, been able to communicate what they’ve learned and collaborated on putting their research into their project and bringing that all together.

“In the past, they had to make a county (parade) float and we would walk around the school with them. We wanted to improve that tradition, so we just really expanded it. They’ve had a lot of fun and it preps them better for upper grades,” she said.

It also tied in with their visit to the capitol that week where they sat in on a senate session, met a local state senator, took a docent tour and tied it in with what they’ve learned about the state — its counties, the song and the branches of government.

“It made it come alive to the students,” she said. “We also listened to a storyteller who talked about the three regions of Utah, so it matched perfectly. They kids were able to connect with that.” 

Their event concluded with the fourth graders singing about all 29 counties and “Utah, This is the Place.” λ