This course is a project-based, 16-week social studies class for 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 a bronze, silver, or gold medal, all based on points earned. 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 (1-2 pages, the length depends on the grade of the student) on a specific state or from the list of general topics. 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 vocab and the states are provided for each section, with an option to take a vocab quiz or regional states test. Note: Students can substitute any project with parental permission for one of equal point value.
Each module begins with a short recorded video introducing the U.S. states in that module. 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 section reviews and tests in vocab and social studies are also provided. Occasional live class times occur so that students can share projects, but these are optional; other times can be arranged as needed.
Who should apply?
This class is open to all fifth through eighth 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 with questions before registering at my email, 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 regularly will stay in 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 work.