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Musical Keeps Michigan History Alive in Students’ Minds

Each year, fourth graders at Cross Creek Charter Academy take those in attendance on a melodic journey detailing some of the things that make the state of Michigan great. The songs have a way of staying with students long after their time at Cross Creek, including numbers about fur trading with French, mining copper and iron, and how the lumberjacks and loggers toiled in the long winters.

Students sing "Michigan Gals"
Cross Creek students sing “Michigan Gals.”

“Michigan’s history is not forgotten when they learn this way,” said Cross Creek Music Teacher Luanne Barnes.

All students picked their parts for their performance on Thursday, March 21, including a group of readers who segued each song into the next. The show opened with a song about things to like about the state, from outdoor activities to wildlife. A group of cheerleaders with sweaters adorned with an “M” capped the opening number by spelling Michigan, shouting out state favorites for each letter such as A for Apples and N for Negaunee.

Lumberjacks and loggers singing
The lumberjacks and loggers sing about toiling in the long Michigan winters.

Students sang and acted out what life was like for tribes throughout the state’s history, showed how Henry Ford’s assembly lines changed transportation, and belted out an ode to the Mackinac Bridge.

As students received applause for the show, the third graders who watched got a glimpse of what awaits them next year at Cross Creek, which is ranked the No. 1 school in the district and has outperformed the district for 14 years.

Miners singing
The miners sing about copper and iron, and how it was transported through the canals.

“I was proud of the students’ high level of engagement and motivation to learn, work hard, and do their best,” Barnes said. “The students each got to choose their part, so the investment was there from the start. But also, helping students learn in this active, hands on, musical way captivates them and creates learning that will last for years to come.”

Great job, Cross Creek!

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About Cross Creek Charter Academy
Cross Creek Charter Academy is a tuition-free, public charter school in Byron Center, Michigan, serving students in Young 5s through eighth grade. It is part of the National Heritage Academies network, which includes more than 100 tuition-free, public charter schools serving more than 65,000 students in kindergarten through 12th grade across nine states. For more information, visit

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