As a teacher there is nothing more exciting than watching a project become student-led and student-driven. There can be few instances that really spark, and ignite students. Do to demands of curriculum and testing requirements over the years I have found that there can be less time to really teach kids all things that I really wish I could.
I have often stated to my students, administrators, and peers that Social Studies is more than placing a capital city on a map. It's more than labeling facts on a timeline, and it is more than writing an essay about life in Ancient Greece. Social Studies can be about SOCIAL issues, current events, and things that are happening to PEOPLE ALL OVER THE GLOBE!
During February and early March my students studied World War II and how it affected European countries, Japan, and the Eastern Hemisphere. We included a few important details related to the U.S.A. because there are just so many amazing details to not cover. We studied Propaganda and how it contributed to Nazism, the Holocaust, Tokyo Rose, and Rosie the Riveter. We watched documentaries like Top Secret Rosies, and Paper Clips and learned how Propaganda can unite a very large community for good or for evil. We completed a project shortly before spring break. Each student had to pick a modern day cause/need and create a poster for that cause showing his/her understanding of propaganda. The result was breathtaking. My students nailed this assignment and what has followed has swept me off my feet. I had students choose tough topics to talk about and look at......AHHHH, but that is what makes SOCIAL STUDIES hard sometimes. Sometimes we have to look at things that are tough to look at and talk about, but if we don't.........then those things NEVER change.
Students advocated for many causes:
~ Animal Cruelty, Child Abuse, Human Trafficking, Equal Rights, Gay Marriage, Gas Prices, National Debt, Cancer, Kony2012, MS, Leukemia, Poverty, World Hunger, Obesity, and the list goes on.
I had students take the project outside of the classroom. Ellie and Claire raised money on their own to symbolically adopt a Polar Bear. Bailey, Makaela, and Allie began selling bracelets to family and friends to raise money for Breast Cancer Research. My Mod 5 class is now collecting 30, 000 new and used water bottle caps, pop lids, and other plastic lids to create a mural for another project. (Look for more postings on this project, because it is going to be amazing!)
Wow! What started out as a small project to culminate my WWII unit has exploded into a rare opportunity to let my students take their learning where they want it to go. When I made the decision to come to middle school, I had several friends, relatives, and colleagues say,"What are you thinking? Middle School? They'll eat you alive! Those kids will be so self-centered!"
Although we all can be concerned with putting ourselves first at times in our life, I have been pleasantly surprised that my 7th graders are not the teacher-eating vultures my loved ones feared they would be. The 7th grade students I have had the pleasure to work with are smart, capable, kind, and really DO CARE about OTHERS. The want the world to better place and they are driven! My propaganda project taught me that.
Below are some thoughts from a few students. Enjoy and watch for more postings soon!
After studying World War II and the negative and positive effects of propaganda, we were assigned a project in our class to evaluate our understanding of propaganda. We were supposed to pick a current need in society that uses propaganda to promote its product. We chose to do Breast Cancer Awareness because one of our friend's mother had been diagnosed with breast cancer at the beginning of the year. I, Bailey, made a bracelet to support my friend and my friend Allie thought it would help if we sold bracelets for donations and gave the money to a Breast Cancer Foundation to find a cure for breast cancer. For our project we found the facts about the deaths of the many men and women. It was quite shocking the result we found. We created a poster for our class assignment.
Our learning and passion did not stop there. We took our learning beyond the classroom and decided to make a difference. We asked our friends, and people we knew to donate if they could. Everyone who donated at least a $1 or more we gave them a pink silicone bracelet that says Faith, Hope, Strength, Courage. We have raised $109.75 and we have gave out almost 50 bracelets. We have learned that 3 small people can make a BIG difference in the world of cancer. We have learned that propaganda can be good as well as bad. But the propaganda with Breast Cancer is good to know about, but the results are sad. The feeling of making a difference in the big world is amazing.
~Bailey, Allie, and Makaela