BLOOMINGTON - Two students got help importing a tortoise from Africa, another student made a floating map of Jamaica and many of the 93 sophomores at Central Catholic High School spent hours in a kitchen.
As a result of their efforts over the last three months, they entertained and educated about 500 people - including parents, Catholic elementary school students and guests - Friday at the school's annual Geography Fair.
Visitors tasted food, listened to music, examined maps and learned about 58 featured countries. The sophomores wore colorful costumes, made detailed maps and cooked traditional food in addition to researching their countries for the fair.
"They just keep getting more creative every year," said Tony Fabrizio, assistant principal at Central Catholic. Fabrizio, who also teaches geography and history, said the fair is a big part of the students' grades, but it also is a lot of fun for them.
Students wrote five-page reports, gave presentations in class, and made displays for the Geography Fair, which included maps, flags and samples of traditional foods.
Students started by pulling names of countries out of a hat in September. Some traded to get a country they want to learn more about, Fabrizio said.
Sophomore Adam Harrison, wearing a Royal Canadian Mounted Police uniform, said he and Pat O'Rourke drew Denmark, but they traded for Canada.
"I didn't know they had rain forests in Canada," Harrison said, explaining some of the things he learned.
Fabrizio said he has learned more over the years about organizing the event. All elementary schools used to come to the fair at the same time, but now they are spread out so it isn't as crowded. The younger students interview the sophomores and fill out question sheets to learn more about the countries.
Natalie Nelson, 11, of Holy Trinity School said she especially liked the food.
"A lot of it is like ours, but it smells and tastes different," she said.
Sean Gibbons, 13, of Epiphany School said he liked the colorful Cuban costumes and the map of Panama.
Students are especially adventurous in making creative maps, Fabrizio said. The map of China was food.
"The Chinese eat rice at almost every meal," said sophomore Erin King of Bloomington, explaining why grains of rice were central in her map. The mountain ranges were Hershey Kisses, and candy fish represented the fishing industry.
Noelle Curry's mother was born in the Philippines, and the 15-year-old sophomore from Normal has visited there herself, making it easy for her find items from that country.
Sophomore Molly Trainor hasn't been to Sweden, but she got help finding Swedish artifacts from an exchange student and a teacher who had lived in there.
Sophomore Matt Buhrow of Bloomington got some of his materials about Iraq from his cousin, who is now serving in the Army there.
Sophomores Hilary Schultz and Katie Hoeniges, both of Bloomington, included a live African tortoise and a monitor lizard in their exhibit about Nigeria. The animals came from Africa and were imported by a pet dealer who is a cousin to one of the students.
Both were in small display cages but will grow. Monitor lizards can be up to 6 feet long and an African tortoise can weigh as much as 500 pounds.