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4th graders decorate 10,000 cards, wish Indiana a happy birthday

The Indiana State Library invites local fourth grade students to mark their mark in the history books and decorate “Happy Birthday, Indiana!” cards in celebration of the state’s bicentennial. Once collected, the cards will be stored in the State Library’s Rare Books and Manuscripts Division as state history. Photo provided

By Emma Rausch

The Indiana State Library invites Wabash County fourth graders to join in on Indiana’s bicentennial celebration by decorating “Happy Birthday, Indiana!” cards.

To celebrate the Indiana’s 200th year as a state, ISL’s Rare Books and Manuscripts Division is asking students across the state to be a part of Indiana history by contributing to the “Happy Birthday, Indiana” manuscript collection project, according to Bethany Fiechter, Division supervisor.

“It’s definitely leading up to the bicentennial when Indiana will be celebrating Statehood Day on Dec. 11 of this year,” Fiechter told The Paper of Wabash County. “We’ve been planning this project for a couples of years now. We’re finally unveiling it to the fourth grade students across the state.”

When preparing for the bicentennial, the State Library wanted to include fourth grade students in the festivities, according to Fiechter.

“Indiana History, it’s definitely a part of their curriculum,” she said when asked why the project targets the fourth grade age group. “So we wanted to make sure that we were going to hit those levels in the curriculum that the teachers would be able to add this without any problems.”

Children can decorate the cards with anything they can imagine, Fiechter said.

“Initially, we had said state bird, state tree, anything representing Indiana, anything that makes them think of home,” she continued, “and we’ve gotten a lot of that, but we’ve also been surprised too.

“Some like to draw it as if it were a map, so they included roads and interstates and the hills of southern Indiana and the fields in the northern half. So it’s been really amazing what we have received and their creativity definitely shines through their work.”

Students will also answer three questions on the card in addition to decorating it. The questions include:

--“What do you like about Indiana?”

-- “What does being a Hoosier mean to you?”

--“What is your favorite place to visit in Indiana?”

At the end of the project, the collection will include a total of 10,000 cards and represent all 92 Indiana counties.

The cards are printed on acid-free paper “that will withstand the tests of time with good care,” Fiechter explained.

“I think the big thing for us is it’s our job to preserve this history,” she said, “and it’s interesting because we’re trying to preserve something that’s happening in the moment.

“So people will be able to come in, these students that are making these birthday cards whenever they’re 50 (-years-old) they can come in and see what they and their classmates did.”

Once collected, all of the cards will be stored in the State Library among the state’s other historic documents and history collections, according to Fiechter.

“This collection, it’s going to be stored with other prominent citizens of the state like William Henry Harrison, we’ve got several Abraham Lincoln artifacts, special Indiana treaties,” she said. “So we’re really treating this as a special collection and we hope people will want to be involved because of that.”

So far, only 48 counties have participated in the project. Wabash County is not among them.

“We’ve tried our best to reach out to all four corners of the state and everywhere in between,” Fiechter said, “but there’s a staff of four of us and we split the map up and tried to reach as many people, but any outreach that we can get to get the word out (is helpful), especially to more rural areas.

“We’d really like to have everyone represented and not just the bigger cities.”

There are 44 counties that Fiechter’s team is having difficulty contacting, she said, including the surrounding counties of Grant, Huntington and Kosciusko.

Participating in the project is not limited solely limited to local schools, according to the supervisor.

“What we do is we send them out to the schools that would like to participate,” Fiechter said, “but we’re not just limiting it schools because everyone has their own schedules.

“So if parents wanted to contact us or their local libraries wanted to be involved, we’re not really limiting it just to fourth grade (students) in schools.”

Those interested in having their students participate in the project may contact Laura Eliason, the Northeast Region card coordinator.

Posted on 2016 Mar 29