GROTON -- "The longest word ... 1,909 letters and I don't even know what it means!" said Finn Keane, third grade, holding onto his new copy of "A Student's Dictionary."
In it's eighth year, The Groton Grange Dictionary Project, "Words for Thirds" gives a new copy of the dictionary to each third-grade student at Florence Roche Elementary School to keep throughout their school career.
The Groton Grange funds the project in conjunction with the Dunstable Grange, which also distributes dictionaries to third graders at Swallow Union School. This year, according to Todd McGillivray, president of Groton Grange, 123 copies were handed out.
On a recent morning, Grange members George Moore and Sally Smith wheeled a cart containing boxes of new copies of dictionaries through the school's halls, visiting each third-grade classroom, where they hand delivered them to excited students.
Moore said, "We all enjoy the project, as it's a way for a very old organization, the Grange, to connect with a new generation."
Teacher Lucas Smith agreed. "It is a great way for students to interact with members of a local organization that represents the agricultural history of Groton."
"Of course, their favorite is always the longest word in the English language, on the last page of the dictionary!" said Smith.
McGillivray said the Groton Grange's Dictionary Project is an opportunity for children to expand their vocabulary, learn spelling, pronunciations and definitions. "Students can benefit from an increased self-reliance and resourcefulness inspired by the maxim, 'Look it up,'" expressed McGillivray.
For teachers, the benefit of knowing that their students will have consistent access to a tool for daily spelling, definitions, reference and class explorations is an advantage.
As McGillivray sees it, the project also aids teachers in their goal to see that third-graders are "prepared as good writers, active readers and creative thinkers" going forward.
"As we focus more on digital resources and electronic devices in the 21st century, it is nice for students to have a hands-on experience with an actual physical reference versus online search engine," Smith said.
"Each year, the children are excited to receive these special dictionaries from the Groton Grange," said teacher Debbie Snow, adding, "Students in my class request time to read their new dictionary during quiet reading so they may learn more on topics of interest."
Smith agrees that the students love their dictionaries and keep them on their desks to use as a resource. He tells students that although it is their personal dictionary, they must keep it at school until the end of the school year.
"The first activity we do is a scavenger hunt where students try to find the page numbers for the following sections: Solar System guide, world maps, U.S./Metric measurement table and the Declaration of Independence," said Smith.
Russ Hoyt, principal, feels the Dictionary program allows students to have an enjoyable entry to an essential academic resource. "The fact that this gift comes from a local historical organization is what I like to call a 'learning bonus' -- an opportunity for students to learn about something while focused on something else -- in essence, a two-for-one educational experience," said Hoyt.
One of the most satisfying aspects about this project, according to Grange members, is receiving the handwritten thank-you letters from the students. "They are very excited to have their own dictionary to keep and use throughout their school careers; I know because, over the years, all three of my children have received their own dictionary and still use them today," said McGillivray.