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History class becomes travel fair, complete with tasty fare

Byron Center — West Middle School history teacher Ryan Molenkamp’s students recently became travel agents and presented their findings on different countries outside of North America. 

‘Some students picked countries based on their heritage, where they’ve traveled or where their family lives.’

— history teacher Ryan Molenkamp

“It would take approximately 21 hours by plane to travel from Byron Center to Vietnam,” seventh-grader Brylee DeMaagd said. “One of the most amazing things about the country is its many stadiums and arenas.” 

During her global travel fair presentation, Brylee shared her knowledge on Vietnam, as well as her mom’s homemade bone broth and rice noodles for her classmates to try. 

While visiting their classmates’ presentations, students filled out their travel passports with facts about each country’s political systems, economy and culture. 

Molenkamp’s students were required to make a speech using a visual aid, either a poster board or PowerPoint, and a colorful travel brochure. They could also wear traditional clothing or bring in food from their countries.

“We’ve been learning about different forms of governments and economies around the world in class, so they had to learn about both things from their countries,” Molenkamp said. 

He also explained their guiding acronym for researching countries around the world, “GRAPES” – geography, religion, achievements, politics, economy, and social structure – the six main aspects of civilization.

“Some students picked countries based on their heritage, where they’ve traveled or where their family lives,” Molenkamp said. “We wanted to have a variety each hour, so students in the same class could not choose the same countries.” 

Seventh-grader Sydney Zepeda said she chose to research the Dominican Republic because it’s a place she often visits during winter break and where her grandpa lives.  

While researching Denmark, seventh-grader Jacob Hovda said he learned that LEGO blocks were invented by Danish toy maker Ole Kirk Christiansen.

Seventh-grader Sophia Wierenga said she was interested in learning about Finland’s holiday traditions.

“One of the most interesting things I learned about Finland was that they have a 100% literacy rate,” she said. “That’s way better than it is in the U.S.” 

Read more from Byron Center: 
Young ‘makers’ create handmade games to help STEM lessons stick
LINKS earns elective status, just in time for Inclusion Week

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Alexis Stark
Alexis Stark
Alexis Stark is a reporter covering Byron Center, Caledonia, Godfrey-Lee, Kenowa Hills and Thornapple Kellogg. She grew up in metro Detroit and her journalism journey brought her west to Grand Rapids via Michigan State University where she covered features and campus news for The State News. She also co-authored three 100-question guides to increase understanding and awareness of various human identities, through the MSU School of Journalism. Following graduation, she worked as a beat reporter for The Ann Arbor News, covering stories on education, community, prison arts and poetry, before finding her calling in education reporting and landing at SNN. Alexis is also the author of a poetry chapbook, “Learning to Sleep in the Middle of the Bed.”


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