Skip to main content

Open Collection of Student Writing (OCSW)

Learning about Denmark: My first research project

When I was eleven-years-old, I attended Valley View Elementary School, located up the steep hill, a few blocks away from my childhood home, in Bountiful, Utah. I was in Mrs. Trimble’s sixth grade class. At the beginning of the school year, in mid-September, Mrs. Trimble stood in front of the noisy classroom and informed the class of a ten pages long country report assignment and project. The classroom, of thirty students, collectively erupted with a loud complaining groan. Mrs. Trimble settled the room down and proceeded to warn us that this assignment was to prepare us for future writing assignments in junior high and beyond. Mrs. Trimble was an over-towering and three times our weight woman with a loud overbearing voice.  Her face would become distorted and redder the angry she became. Students would swear the mole on her face would begin gyrating with its own gravitational pull ready to pounce on the nearest student. I would often sit in my seat feeling scared and anxious, worried I would say something to anger her. Every student had previously heard stories about how she would aggressively yell and frighten students to tears.

The writing assignment was for each student to pick a country to research and write a paper about. I quickly chose Denmark before anyone else could claim it. I chose Denmark because I had ancestors that immigrated from there in the late nineteenth century. I thought it would be exciting to learn about another country so far away with a different culture, customs and language than mine. At that beginning stage, I had no clue of the nightmare that laid before me.

The first part of the writing assignment involved writing a letter to Denmark government requesting information about their country. Mrs. Trimble provided a letter template to guide us. This writing assignment was okay because I waited in excited anticipation to receive my package of information straight from Denmark. When my mom informed me that I had received a large envelop in the mail, I dropped everything on the spot and raced to open the first mail I had ever received. As I held the large heavy manila envelope, I could only imagine what was inside. As I quickly ripped into the package numerous brochures and pamphlets fluttered like fall leaves to the gray carpet beneath my feet. It was at that moment that I realized that this writing assignment was going to be scarier than “Nightmare on Elm Street”, which I had only heard about at age eleven.

I had never written anything remotely close to the magnitude of what this writing assignment entailed. To stay on track, for the project completion date, I was required to hand in one page, written by of hand, every week.  It was important for me to remember to use my best penmanship. However, it was a struggle to even grasp the pencil with my painfully arthritic fingers, because I had been diagnosed with JRA, Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis, at the age of nine. Anyway, back to the writing assignment. I would stare at that ominous empty page wondering how I could muster up the energy to write even one sentence, let alone fill the entire page. I labored to scratch out every word, but also feeling some relief as each word consumed the vast wilderness of the blank page. I can still hear my mom and dad encouraging me to keep going and that I was doing a great job.

First, I wrote about the geographical information about Denmark.  This sounds like a simple enough task until you throw ADHD into the mix. The thoughts in my brain would bounce around faster than the steel ball in a pinball machine.  Trying to organize, and remember the facts is nearly impossible especially when the slightest nearby sound or motion, out of the corner of my eye, would capture my full attention. Not to mention the shear pain of sitting in one spot for what seemed like numerous hours. I would become so antsy the I could not sit still, and I became so unfocused that writing became impossible. Especially when adding to the mix, my annoying little, six-year-old sister running around the house creating more distractions. The only thing that helped me was receiving constant encouragement from Mrs. Trimble and my mom and dad sitting by my side to help me stay focused, but still I struggled. The next writing assignments were focus on Denmark’s history, its government, its natural resources, economics, tourism, famous Danish people, and culture and traditions.

Although writing was still horribly awful and torturous to every cell in my body, I continued to feel overwhelmed, overly frustrated, and had a constant burning sensation in my chest, I realized learning more about Denmark was interesting. I just wish I hadn’t had to write about what I had learned. I enjoyed learning about the history of the Vikings and the famous people from Denmark like the influential children’s fairy tale writer Hans Christian Anderson who is probably Denmark’s most well-known person. Somehow, in spite of my struggles with ADHD and juvenile rheumatoid arthritis I was able to finish the report on time, but it changed my perspective on writing forever.

Denmark solidified my hatred of writing. My eleven-year-old self-realized while working on this large assignment that writing is the worse subject to learn in school and made me wonder if I would survive junior high and high school. To me, writing is worse than a trip to the city dump. In fact, I placed more value on the dump because sometimes a visit to the dump a person could obtain some really good stuff. As long as the continual pestering of flies and the putrid smells could be tolerated. In my opinion, from sixth grade on writing only brought around the flies and a very bad smell. From the words of William Shakespeare “Something is rotten in the state of Denmark.” Especially when writing about it.

By accessing or using any part of this site, you agree to not download, copy, or otherwise plagiarize its contents in any way.

Salt Lake Community College

4600 South Redwood Road Salt Lake City, UT 84123
Student Services hours: M - F : 7am -7pm
Enrollment Info: 801-957-4073 |