Our Fifty States is a one-semester social studies class for 5th – 7th graders. We will use Professor Wise’s Expedition Guide to Our 50 States, a curriculum written by Debra Bell, in this project-based course, as students become Discovery Corps Scouts and learn both the history and geography of the U.S. states. Scouts earn points through completing weekly assignments and projects about the fifty states. Scouts that earn a minimum of 1125 points will receive a bronze award and a certificate of completion, and scouts that go above and beyond the call of duty will earn additional rewards. 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 section will include 4-6 vocabulary words, and students will complete review exercises to practice these 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. Note: Students can substitute the state project or a different project with parental permission, rather than doing a paper, speech, and creative project during the semester. 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.
- Lastly, students will have opportunity to take tests with basic facts about the states by region, including memorizing the capitals for each state. It’s up to the parents to decide if their student will be required to take these tests.
A typical lesson consists of reading a passage about a state, answering a few questions about it either directly on Canvas or by hand on a worksheet, and then adding an entry for that state to the student’s States Visual Project. Additional time should be set aside each week to work on projects, but rather than following a certain schedule, that can be done as it suits the student. During class, we will have discussions and play games to review facts about the states covered each week. At the end of each region of states, there will be a vocabulary review activity and an optional test. The amount of time required will really depend on the student as to whether he or she wants to do the minimum required work, or earn the top medals by completing additional projects. All work will be posted on Canvas. A live class will take place each week, but it will be recorded for students that can’t attend at that time.
Who should apply?
All 5th – 7th graders are welcome to take the class; students should be able to use a computer for an on-line class independently.
- High speed, broadband Internet
- headset and microphone (for live sessions)
- Streaming video capabilities to watch recorded lectures
Evaluation and Feedback
In this class especially, the quantity of work is key, as effort for completing exercises and projects is rewarded, rather than graded traditionally. I will contact a parent if a student doesn’t seem to be doing his or her best effort on the daily exercises. On the projects, Mrs. Graybill will give feedback so that the students can learn from their mistakes, but they are not expected to revise or edit the work, as they do in her English classes.
Once a student has registered, the parent will receive a welcome packet from me with additional information about the course. As mentioned, I will contact parents if a student seems to be struggling, and this class is so flexible that I do welcome parental input in orchestrating the projects so that it works best for that student. Parents are always welcome to email me.