This course is a project-based, full-year social studies class for upper elementary or middle school students. Using Professor Wise’s Expedition Guide to Our Fifty States, an out-of-print curriculum written by Debra Bell, students become Discovery Corps Scouts. Scouts earn points through completing weekly assignments and projects about all 50 states. Scouts that earn a minimum of 1000 points will receive a certificate of completion, and scouts that go above and beyond will earn medals: bronze (1125 points), silver (1300 points), or gold (1475 points). This is considered a social studies course, but through completing various projects, students will use numerous English skills, improving their reading and writing along the way.
- Read short passages about each state in our text, completing comprehension questions.
- Learn new vocabulary words, as each passage will include 4-6 vocabulary words.
- Complete a visual project with basic facts about all 50 states, divided into regions.
- Prepare a “States and Capitals” map. Additional points can be earned for also creating a state landmark map showing the three largest cities (by population) of each state, major rivers and bodies of water, major mountain ranges, and top U.S. landmarks, including national parks and historic places of interest.
- Read nonfiction books or watch documentaries about specific states, completing a book or media report for each. (At least one must be completed for the certificate, but additional reports will earn students even more points.)
- Write at least one short research paper on a specific state or from the list of general topics. Paper length will be 1-2 pages, depending on the grade of the student. (Additional papers will earn even more points toward the top rewards.)
- Prepare and present at least one oral presentation on a specific state or from the list of general topics. (Additional presentations will earn even more points toward the top rewards.)
- Prepare and share one creative project, such as a scrapbook, poster, game, or script for a skit on a specific state or from the list of general topics. (Additional presentations will earn even more points toward the top rewards.)
- Optional: Prepare a “My State Notebook” or slide presentation (such as Power Point) with information about the state where the student lives; this notebook/slide presentation would be shared in class.
- Students can also earn points by completing “field work” in which they visit a historical site such as a state museum, state historical site, or state natural resource or geographical site and then write a field work report. This can earn additional rewards, or also substitute for the paper, speech, and project with parental permission.
- Optional: Reviews for vocabulary and the states are provided for each section, with an option to take a vocabulary quiz or regional states test. Note: Students can substitute any project with parental permission for one of equal point value.
A typical lesson consists of reading a passage about a state in the text, answering comprehension questions related to it (either as a worksheet the parent prints or directly on Canvas) and also preparing an entry for that state on the state visual project. Additional time will be spent on the various projects, but can be done to suit the student’s schedule. Optional reviews and tests in vocab and social studies are also provided.
Who should enroll?
This class is open to all 5th through 7th graders who want to study history and geography through learning about our fifty states.
- High speed, broadband Internet
- Headset and microphone (for live sessions)
- Streaming video capabilities to watch recorded lectures
Evaluation and Feedback
The majority of work in the class is based on effort, as students earn points for completing work rather than percentage grades. Feedback is given on all projects so that students can learn from their mistakes, but usually full credit is earned for projects. Optional tests and quizzes are the only assignments that earn percentage grades. A student that completes “stellar work” in both quality and quantity may earn a “gold star of distinction” in addition to their medal.
Parents are welcome to contact me via email with questions before registering, but it is not necessary before enrolling a student. Once I know a student has registered, the family will receive a welcome packet with additional information about the course. I maintain regular contact with parents and students through Canvas with updates on how the student is progressing through the modules. Also, I will contact parents if there is a concern that a student is not keeping up with the class.
The fifty states class was a great class for me. Mrs. G is a great teacher who offers to zoom in live and grades very fast. Sometimes challenging, however i always could reach out for extra help. Also the projects are great learning experiences that actually helped me a lot. I even gave a speech which was a great way to practice public speaking. I learned a lot from this course that will carry on to a lot of my other classes. I would defiantly recommend this class to anyone wanting to learn more about American history and such. Mrs. G is also an amazing teacher with lots of experience so i would defiantly recommend her as well.
Daisy G (verified owner) –
This is a challenging class that covers a lot of material, involves many projects and exposes students to various new experiences. I am glad to see this is being made into a 2 semester class. Mrs. Graybill is very responsive and encouraging to her students.
It exceeded our expectations in the excitement our son had towards this class. Mrs. Graybill has always brought a great curriculum with both my kids they have learned so much. It truly takes something special to keep them engaged and eager for her class. All expectations exceeded!
kelly (verified owner) –
Our Fifty States (my son is currently enrolled– Winter 2020) has been such a provision. The content is of course fantastic, what’s there not to love about learning about our amazing 50 states? However, it’s more than just the content. I enjoy that my son is learning how to learn various things that we have not yet been able to teach him such as using CANVAS (which our local and highly rated JC uses), citing sources in his research paper, live interactions via the web, being accountable to someone other than mom and dad, etc. I also really enjoy the flexibility that Mrs. Graybill offers. Certain things are mandatory but other things are optional (such as vocabulary and other things too). I was able to look at my son’s current course load, his gifts and the class and then decide how best to support his growth. Mrs. Graybill is very accomodating, kind, knowledgable, quick to respond and really just a fantastic teacher. I highly recommend her and this course.
JULIE MONTGOMERY (verified owner) –
What a breath of fresh air this class has been for my 7th grader. This class is amazingly well structured, but not lacking in creativity. Mrs. G does a great job of mixing state-related worksheets with projects. I was so proud to see my daughter step up and think creatively about her projects and apply things that she is learning. I can often hear my daughter laughing on the class meeting, enjoying her interactive session. The book, National Geographic’s United States Encyclopedia, is just pure fun. We love when she leaves it on the coffee table – it’s structured kind of like a Ripley’s Believe it or Not book! We love Mrs. G and will definitely look for more classes that she ovvers.
The U. S. Presidents and 50 States course was a great way to get my child interested in learning more about our country. The projects were interesting and provided a number of ways to earn points that made the work a fun challenge. While my daughter took this class at a home school co-op, she used the same material that will be used for this AIM Academy course. My daughter also had Mrs. Graybill for an English class and just loved her. She is an encouraging and thoughtful teacher who inspires the best in her students.