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Wednesday, August 1, 2012

How to cover the curriculum, hit at all levels of critical thinking, and still make an authentic student centered project

After my last post I realized I needed to revisit my own project and make improvements. To begin with let me explain the project. I believe in creation, I believe in student ownership, I believe passion is the driving force of learning and excellence. Because of all that I came up with my Create a Country Project. I think it is a nice blend of content and creation. In the end, which I might add is a great place to start planning, students will create a map of their own country that includes: a physical map with landforms, political map with cities and populations, climate map and climagraph, culture page, resources and economic activities, and government page. This covers a major portion of the state core and gives them a reference point for when we study different parts of the world throughout the year. Since I already know my destination now I can plan how I want to get there.

The following is how I have decided to implement this for the start of the year. Hopefully this will be helpful to you as well.

I. Students will create their own country using the spatial elements.
II. Students will rank/order the importance of each characteristic and support their choices.
III. Students will explain what they would do differently if given this assignment again and why.

Part One: The result for this part is for students to pick a place on the map using lat/long coordinates for where they would like their country to be. They must include a written summary for why they chose the position they did. Each day we will have mini lessons that cover the material. The point here is we are building from scratch and as the teacher I am giving the students the skills necessary to create their project.

Part Two: The result for this part is for students to create a climate map and a climagraph for their country. Their written summary will answer "How does location affect your climate?"

Part Three: The result will be a physical map of their country. Using actual physical maps as reference, create the landforms that would be in your country. Written Summary: Explain why you landforms are there (e.g. how were they created).

Part Four: The result will be a political map of their country. Place cities in your country and figure out the population of each (using real world data as a “realistic” guide for the numbers. Written Summary: Why did you place your cities where you did? Were these good spots for your cities and why or why not?

Part Five: The result will be a culture page. Use computer resources to find and create a picture culture sheet about your country (food, clothing, religion, etc.)
Written Summary: Compare and contrast your country’s culture with the culture you live in.

Part Six: The result will be a land use and resource map including economic activities. Written Summary:What are some problems AND advantages your country would have based on your resources? How would you solve some of the problems?

Part Seven: Students will write a summary as to why they chose the government system they did examining pros/cons of different types of government.

Part Eight: Overall written summary of the project including reflective piece where they explain what they would do differently if the could do it over.

In the end they have an authentic product where they applied, analyzed, synthesized, and evaluated the content. As I have it planned it will take about a week to do each part of the project(save part eight). There will be mini lessons each day that will present the material/content and then the students will have to then use that in the creation of their own country. This is not a project where you say in 8 weeks you need to create a country and have a physical, political, and climate map. I will be guiding them along the way and they make all the decisions along the way. I have tried to ensure that I have covered the material, hit at all levels of critical thinking, allowed students the ability to choose and create.

Note: There is a lot more to it than just this list. I didn't think I needed to go over all the day to day lessons. I thought an overview was more appropriate for this forum.

This is a journey for myself as well and I have made tweaks each year to improve the overall quality of my teaching and the project itself. After all we need to be the #1 model of learning in our class. Attitudes aren't taught, they're caught. If you are bored, imagine how they feel. If you are full of energy and passion then your students will be as well. Remember why you became an educator and then act the part.


  1. I hope you will get a chance to post some of your students' work, whether they are the final product or part of the assigned series of tasks. It would also be great to see how the project influences any later units when you discuss the formation of states etc. Looking forward to seeing the results!

  2. Great thought about publishing student work. I do believe that students will do good work for me, but if they other's are gonna see it, they will do amazing work. I have a few big plans for that. Just gotta figure out how I'm gonna pull it off. I will be aiming for the fences. As always thanks for your comments.