When I was in 4th or 5th grade, I did a report on Mississippi. I remember only two things about the state (the fact that Jackson is the capitol isn’t one of those things.)
First, I remember the shape of the state, and especially it’s coastline. I made a pretty nice looking map of Mississippi and Alabama, and remember the rough symmetry between them. And I seem to recall drawing lots of cotton plants on the map.
Second, I distinctly remember the state logo for Mississippi ,because I though it was so cool. I saw that logo twice yesterday while driving into downtown Jackson, and I vividly remember drawing it. Nearly three decades ago.
Unfortunately, that’s about all I remember. But having now been to Mississippi twice this year, I have a much more complete and more human picture of this place, it’s people, its culture, it’s landscape, and it’s mood. These are things that one cannot really get from simply researching a place. And while I certainly don’t know much, I know and understand significantly more than I used to about what life is like in the south.
Obviously, my primary teacher could not have possibly sent each of us to our respective states to experience them firsthand. But learning must be experiential and allow students to create something if we ever want it to be meaningful and memorable. And it must be relevant to our lives. Mississippi wasn’t for me.
I’m proud to say that now my hard work has finally paid off. Almost thirty years later, it’s all coming back to me! In fact, I’ve been mistaken by several native Mississippians for a southerner several times now. At least until I open my mouth. Or enter their field of view.
But I do remember a couple of things, and I just remembered one more: there’s a big river named after this state, too! I even recognized it from 30,000 feet in the air! I feel so smart.