At Arthur Rann Elementary School in Galloway, New Jersey, students look forward to the annual Heroes Fair. Every fifth grader participates in this event that brings together the entire K-6 school community for a celebration of heroes and the character traits they possess.
The Heroes Fair idea is one that Ginny Bisignaro, a fifth-grade teacher at the school, admits to “stealing.” She got the idea from a college professor who had students choose and report on a hero as part of a Teaching Social Studies class she took at Millersville University.
“When I was hired at Rann nine years ago, I jumped right in and organized a Heroes Fair with my homeroom,” Bisignaro told Education World. “The students do most of what I had to do in college, but on a level they can handle and at which they can succeed.”
The college professor from whom Bisignaro stole the idea is Dr. Dennis Denenberg, a national expert on the use of heroes in the classroom. “Heroes can change a kid’s life because they expose kids to positive character traits,” says Denenberg, whose Heroes4US website should be the first stop for anyone interested in learning more about Heroes Fairs. Denenberg is also the co-author of 50 American Heroes Every Kid Should Meet. [view a related video]
As it turns out, Dr. Denenberg has inspired other teachers to start Heroes Fairs, too. It was a graduate class with him that spurred two teachers at Denver (Pennsylvania) Elementary School to introduce a fair there.
“A Heroes Fair is the ultimate form of subject integration -- social studies meets communication arts, math, science, music, art, and physical education,” Georgette Hackman, a fifth-grade teacher at Denver Elementary, told Education World. “Since students choose heroes based upon their own passions and interests, multiple disciplines become integrated into the project.”
HEROES FAIR ‘EXPLODES’
Interest in the annual Heroes Fair at Rann Elementary has “exploded,” Bisignaro told us. A few years after she first organized a classroom Heroes Fair, another fifth-grade teacher joined in. By 2008, the entire fifth-grade team participated. Now students come into fifth grade looking forward to their chance to put on a Heroes Fair – and the entire school body visits the fair. [view video coverage of Rann’s 2008 Heroes Fair]
“Younger students write thank you notes to share what they have learned about the heroes,” said Bisignaro. “One of the moms actually shared with me that her son has been looking forward to doing the fair since third grade.”
In the seven years since the Heroes Fair debuted at Denver Elementary, Hackman and her colleague, Rebecca Culbert, have had several younger students approach them in the hallway to announce who they want to "be" when they come to fifth grade.
“The fair is a school-wide event that also brings in people from other schools and the community at large,” noted Hackman. “Any event that brings so many varied individuals into our school and showcases the hard work our students do is a good thing.”
The Denver Elementary Heroes Fair has also grown over the years. It began with two classes and now it’s up to five classes in two schools. The fair has also changed to reflect best practices in education. “For example, we have integrated a primary document piece into the project," explained Hackman. "Each student must include at least one primary document in their presentation.”
The Heroes Fair is one of those “perfect” events. It involves teachers, students, and families in learning together as it helps contribute to a positive school climate. But Bisignaro said the biggest benefit is its impact on students.
“Students learn about individuals who hopefully will inspire them to greatness,” she told Education World. “The heroes that are chosen exemplify determination, compassion, perseverance, courage, generosity, and many, many more wonderful qualities. At the conclusion of the Heroes Fair preparation, students know their heroes so well. Their knowledge of those heroes, along with what they can learn about life from their heroes, is the biggest benefit of the Heroes Fair.”
HEROES FAIR RESOURCES
National Heroes Day
It has become fashionable to overstate the idea of heroes in our culture today. Historically, there are countless heroes who have become lost or forgotten. The major goal of National Heroes Day is to inspire students of all ages to rediscover the forgotten heroes from the past and bring them back into the spotlight. Heroes Day aims to plant the seeds for the growth of real heroes for the future.
Dr. Dennis Denenberg’s website serves as a nice starting point for anyone interested in learning more about heroes and Hero Fairs. The site includes photos from a Heroes Fair as well as Tips for Organizing a Heroes Fair.
Heroes Fair Project PowerPoint
This is a PowerPoint presentation that Pennsylvania teacher Georgette Hackman created to motivate her students’ participation in a class Heroes Fair. The presentation includes a definition of a hero, the process students used for choosing a hero, project requirements, pictures of exemplary projects from years past, and a quiz that ensures students understand the project's goals and requirements.
Education World Special Archive: Honoring Our Heroes
Where are the real heroes for today's children and young adults? The major goal of National Heroes Day is to bring them back into the spotlight they deserve. Education World has put together some lesson ideas and other resources to help you do just that. Join us as we pay tribute to those individuals who inspire us by their great strength, courage, and perseverance in facing challenges.