North Dakota students have been taking stock of their state's rich history and multitude of attractions, from the historic Lewis and Clark Trail to the wild horses that roam majestic Badlands in Theodore Roosevelt National Park. Their goal: to convince distant friends and relatives that the Peace Garden State is a great place to visit.
To help promote tourism, and hone their writing and research skills, middle school students across the state have been sending thousands of letters to grandparents, cousins, and others outside the state as part of the fledgling North Dakota Invitation Project.
The project was the brainchild of Ken Maher, the principal of Memorial Middle School at Minot Air Force Base. He figured that his students—many of whom moved to the state when their parents were stationed there—would have access to networks of potential tourists across the country and perhaps around the world.
"We have a declining population here in North Dakota, and most people don't know what we have to offer," said David M. Looysen, the superintendent of the Minot school district. "It's a very beautiful state," he said, "and we wanted to give the kids a chance" to sell others on its merits.
The project has been gathering steam over the past several weeks, expanding beyond the 6,700-student Minot district to dozens of other districts throughout the state.
Mr. Looysen said he endorsed the initiative after Mr. Maher convinced him it was not just busywork. The 7th and 8th graders involved in the project are meeting requirements for writing and research, as well as content standards in history and social studies.
Some students, for example, have been describing the role the American Indian guide Sacajawea played in leading Meriwether Lewis and William Clark through the vast Western wilderness after the explorers met up with her in North Dakota in the fall of 1804.
Others have touted the abundance of outdoor activities.
One student urged her grandmother to escape the noise of New York City to enjoy "the quiet and calm plains of North Dakota."
—Kathleen Kennedy Manzo
Vol. 23, Issue 26, Page 18Published in Print: March 10, 2004, as State Journal