Social Studies projects are a way of life in our classroom. Every summer, I mull over the long list of project based learning activities we spend the year with, and toss out, tweak and create new ones. There are so many resources out there for kids to take advantage of, that this process gets more and more involved every summer…but always worthwhile.
One project we love and will always be a part of the sixth grade social studies experience in my classroom is the Lewis and Clark Expedition. This is the first big research project my kids do – with individual and groups tasks and presentations. It is a great opportunity to demonstrate the research process and help put it into practice with clearly defined tasks and deadlines. Our school website allows for easy access to my task page, resources, examples and rubrics. So, even though the volume of work is large, my kids feel supported each step of the way.
Last week, we completed our Expedition maps – my kids had to research the route, identify 12 events along the way and chart the states, rivers, etc. the Expedition had to journey through. Since this was a group project, we worked on it in school, with lots of ready access to maps and research materials. Our kids seem geographically challenged these days, ironic in that we think globally these days and they do travel quite extensively. Creating the map allows for a rather intensive look at our continent, a sense of where our states lie, and what the terrain looks like. Although creating our maps was time consuming, it was wonderful to hear conversations about geography – they were (naturally) awed by the Expedition’s “undaunted courage” (to quote Stephen Ambrose, whose book by that name is my primary resource), and they came away with concrete knowledge about our vast continent.
Here’s a link to our project page:
Here are some of the maps my kids created in class: