This course is a project-based, 16-week social studies class for middle school students. Using Professor Wise’s Expedition Guide to the U.S. Presidents, an out-of-print curriculum written by Debra Bell, students become Discovery Corps Scouts. Scouts earn points through completing weekly assignments and projects about the Presidents. 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 history course, but through completing various projects, students will use numerous English skills, improving their reading and writing along the way. Families may choose to follow the suggested schedule, completing the course by the end of 2020, or go at a slower pace and continue into the spring semester.
- Read short biographies about each President in our text, completing comprehension questions.
- Learn new vocabulary words, as each passage will include 4-6 vocabulary words.
- Complete a time-line visual project with basic facts about all 45 U.S. Presidents.
- Prepare a “Presidents and States” map (showing which states were added during which Presidency). Additional points can be earned for also creating a Presidential Landmark map showing Presidential birthplaces, libraries, or historic sites associated with each President.
- Read nonfiction books (biographies) or watch documentaries about specific Presidents, 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) about a topic related to the Presidency. Additional papers will earn even more points toward the top rewards.
- Prepare and present at least one oral presentation about a topic related to the Presidency. (Additional presentations will earn even more points toward the top rewards.)
- Prepare and share one creative project about a topic related to the Presidency, such as a scrapbook, poster, game, or script for a skit. (Additional presentations will earn even more points toward the top rewards.)
- Optional: Being that it is an election year, students will be encouraged to follow the Presidential election and can earn additional points for work related to this.
- Students can also earn points by completing “field work” in which they visit a historical site related to a President and prepare a fieldwork report. This can earn additional rewards, or also substitute for the paper, speech, or project with parental permission.
- Optional: Reviews for vocab and Presidential facts are provided for each section, with an option to take a vocab quiz or Presidents 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 Presidents in that module. A typical lesson consists of reading a passage about a President 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 President on the Timeline 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 history 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 learn American history though the lives of the Presidents.
- High speed, broadband Internet
- Headset and microphone (for live sessions)
- Streaming video capabilities to watch recorded lectures
- Microsoft Word and Power Point is extremely helpful. If using a different word processing program, the document should be saved or exported as a pdf in order to submit it on Canvas.
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.