Skip to main content

Murray Journal

Grant fourth-grade students take last ‘voyage’ to France

Aug 10, 2023 02:25PM ● By Julie Slama

When the plane touched down, it made history. 

After 34 years, it was the last mock flight to Paris.

Throughout the school year, Grant Elementary teacher Ginger Shaw has introduced French vocabulary and traditions to her traditional fourth-grade classroom. The cumulation is a mock day in Paris, where students use the material they’ve learned integrated with other subjects for a day filled with new experiences and French culture.

Shaw holds it on one of the last days of the school year.

“It’s considered a free day, but instead of just turning on a movie, we’re still exploring and engaging in learning,” she said. “We learn about geography with map assignments, art and math with drawing the Eiffel Tower, science as we learn about snail habitats before tasting escargot, history, language and in so many ways, it ties into curriculum.”

Shaw gives the students passports, using their school photos, and inspires them to explore the world beyond their community.

“By learning some words in other languages and learning a little about the French culture, it encourages students to be more curious. Anytime when they learn another language, they increase the chances of getting a job and are more accepting of others with different cultures and backgrounds,” she said. “It started with just teaching a few words and evolves to introducing French cuisine, having luggage claim tickets they need to read, and learning traditional French songs.”

Now, the cups that held popcorn and drinks were gathered a final time by sixth-graders who returned to their fourth-grade classroom to serve the in-flight refreshments. The chairs, arranged to assemble passenger seating, are put back in their upright position.

Shaw is retiring.

She, along with fourth-grade teacher Jeanne Simpson and first-grade teacher Jennifer Simpson, will leave a void in the classrooms at Grant Elementary. Jennifer Simpson has been teaching 37 years, one year more than Shaw and Jeanne Simpson; the latter Simpson will continue part-time as an art instructor. 

Shaw’s entire time teaching has been at Grant.

“What was funny is Jeanne and I had classes at BYU (Brigham Young University) together, so we knew each other, and then, we both ended up starting here,” she said. “I’m grateful that I’ve had the opportunity to watch them grow. I’ve had so many blessings teaching students.”

Shaw also is known as “The Origami Lady,” having started her own business more than 30 years. She can fold more than 300 different items around animals, themes and holidays and annually decorates at least one tree at Festival of the Trees that benefits Primary Children’s Hospital.

Her passion began when her sister taught her how to make the bird with flapping wings when she was in seventh grade. Since then, she has read books and exchanged designs with others and even created seven of her own — a flying fish, ghost, alien, lantern, rocking horse, sleeping cat and pocket owl — and numerous modifications.

“It has just snowballed from there,” she said. “I can pick up a piece of paper, a brochure, a dollar bill and create something memorable for someone.”

Shaw teaches her schoolchildren how to twist, fold and crease a piece of paper into origami creations as well as teaching them names of different geometrical shapes through jingles she has created. 

“Everything I do is teaching-oriented,” she said. “The little sayings and songs are a fun way to remember the shapes and students remember them longer — and music opens up another level of creativity.”

Shaw uses music intertwined in much of her teaching. She sets lines about these and other subjects her students are expected to learn to familiar melodies, such as “Old McDonald Has a Farm” or “Camptown Races.” She has 74 songs students sing to remember what they’ve learned such as, how many pounds are in one ton, the difference between adjectives and adverbs and the different kinds of clouds.

One tune, the “Utah County Song,” was recorded for the Utah State Board of Education to share on a blog.

“I make sure the vocabulary they need to know as well as the concepts are in the song so they can get a grasp on what they’re learning,” said Shaw, who is in the process of working with sound artist Matt Cropper to record all the songs.

Learning often extends beyond the classroom. She has encouraged her students to find out about pioneers in their own families and why they have settled in the Murray area before going to the Murray Museum.

“We learn about Utah history in fourth grade, so it’s important to learn the story of our own community where some of their relatives may have lived,” Shaw said, adding that students learned more about the area from holding a fair about Utah counties that includes students making PowerPoint presentations, salt dough maps that include landmarks in the state and giving poster presentations. 

They also go to This is the Place Heritage Park, the state capitol and even a resort to ski through Ski Utah. 

“We begin that on the first day of school. I give them a map of counties and I ask them to name all the counties. Usually, they don’t even know one, not even Salt Lake. In three days, every child can name every county and find its location on a map,” she said.

Shaw also does it with a United States map as well through a story of a backpacker traveling through all the states and their capitols.

“It’s just a fun way and the kids memorize it. We go over it and I give them ways to remember it. It’s repetition that helps. We have a song master who selects three songs every morning and we sing those and remember the things we learned,” she said.

Shaw intermixes science, such as the study of clouds, into her songs and often, integrates subjects that students are learning. This past spring, she videotaped chicks at her home hatching and taught them about their habitat and environment.

“Then, the kids went into different classrooms for 15 minutes to explain the embryology to other students. They practiced their public speaking, they answered questions and used that knowledge they learned to share it. They loved it,” she said.

Shaw’s classroom is known to hold chess tournaments, Battle of the Books competitions and to learn about Pi on Pi Day before eating a slice of pie.

“One of my students, Stockton Pehrson, was so motivated that he memorized it out to 25 digits on his own,” she said.

Learning also is intertwined in their visit to Paris.

Fourth-grader Scarlet Bohman was doing a French crossword puzzle.

“It has all these French words we learned this year in it,” she said, adding she has also learned French phrases. “We are drawing the Eiffel Tower; I’m trying to draw mine to scale. “

Scarlet said they learned the tower was built as part of the World’s Fair and it was initially planned to be torn down. 

“We learned about the Arc de Triomphe as an entrance to the city,” she said. “We ate snails, which were disgusting, but the best thing about this day and the entire class is Ms. Shaw.”

Her classmate, Clark Cameron, who also had a similar thought about escargot — “gross” — said he’s glad he’s learned how to make butter to learning French this year. 

“She makes learning fun,” he said.

Fourth-grader Kennedy Pixton said she has appreciated learning and singing about math while doing origami, learning some sign language and watching the chicks hatch, but going to France has been her favorite experience. She has been inspired by Shaw to learn more. 

“We started learning French words the first day of school,” she said. “We know our alphabet; we can count and sing songs in French. I love all the French posters she has on the wall, the books, the flags and everything she has about it. I want to learn more of the language and go there someday.” 

Before they departed their mock airport or classroom, Shaw reminded them to gather their luggage — a suitcase the size of their hand filled with goodies — and pictures, one even trimmed as a postcard, of the day — as souvenirs of their visit to Paris. λ