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Grade 2: Biography Expo

Grade 2 students were excited to host their Biography Expo in person for the first time in three years. This long-standing event is the final product of weeks of preparation in Grade 2 classrooms, during which each student thoroughly researches a historical figure that had a positive impact on the world and invents an item that would have helped their historical honoree with a problem. This project introduces students to important research techniques and develops formal writing skills while incorporating innovative thinking and empathy so that students can connect with the historical figure they choose to honor. 
At the start of the project, second grade teachers read books about different historical figures out loud to their students and encourage them to think about what kind of person they’d like to research. “We try to expose students to loads of really amazing people who have changed the world in different ways,” Mrs. Justine Hall, Grade 2 teacher, said. The students chose subjects from all backgrounds, including tennis player Billie Jean King, human rights activist Malcolm X, and fashion designer and entrepreneur Coco Chanel. “Once they’ve chosen their person, they do a lot of wondering and research about them.” As they explore their subject’s life, the second graders focus on their chosen subject’s successes, failures, problems, and ways they made a difference during their lifetime. This methodical process spans multiple weeks, as the students learn valuable note-taking and annotating skills that increase the quality of their writing and prepare them for the final presentations at the Expo. 

To build upon the crucial research and writing skills the third graders learn while preparing for the Expo, Grade 2 teachers introduced another level to the project that increases critical thinking and innovation: the classes met periodically in the Gates Lab to design and build an invention that would have helped their subject with one of their problems. “My favorite part is the design thinking part, which we’ve just developed over the last couple of years,” Mrs. Hall said. “They go through the design thinking process like the middle school students do for the Gates Invention and Innovation Program. The creativity that comes through is just amazing.”

The students presented a section of their research and their inventions to their families and peers at the Biography Expo, and afterwards, formally presented their full findings to their classmates. Some students even chose to dress up as their historical figure! “They’ve become an expert on this person that they study,” Mrs. Hall said. “It’s a great culmination of so much effort and time spent.” Great work, Grade 2! 
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Graland Country Day School

Graland Country Day School is a private school in Denver, Colorado, serving students in preschool, kindergarten, elementary, and middle school. Founded in Denver in 1924, Graland incorporates a rich, experiential learning approach in a traditional classroom setting, emphasizing the development of globally and socially conscious leaders who excel academically.