by Hannah Finn Wiltshire, Elementary Division Director
As many of you know, social studies units in the elementary school typically begin with a study of geography. In our youngest classes, it is a basic introduction of where we are in the world. As students get older, the studies get broader and deeper and students learn about places near and far in greater detail.
This year the Cuffe, Penn, Levi and Fry Room students have expanded this study even further. In preparation for a research project in the spring, students embarked on a new and exciting geography research project and were introduced to a variety of research skills and long term planning strategies as part of the project.
Natalie Huerta, our literacy coach extraordinaire, and the teachers developed an impressive research report project rubric and a chart for students to follow. The chart outlined the extremely detailed, step-by-step process each student would go through to complete the project and served as a guide throughout their research. Most importantly, this document had ten clear ‘complete by’ dates for students to refer to.
The classes each chose a quadrant of the United States. Within each quadrant, teachers chose three or four states to be the focus of students’ research. The teachers then did their own extensive research and developed accessible, accurate and user-friendly resources for the students. One teacher even reached out to family and friends in the states she researched and had them send ‘artifacts’ that represented the states to share with the students!
Throughout this project students learned to highlight pertinent information in their reading. They took notes and color coded the information they gathered. This system helped them check for missing information in their research before completing quick outlines. The importance of a rough draft was emphasized and provided a great opportunity for independent editing and revising. When students felt they were ready, they revised and edited with a teacher. Final drafts were typed, with a bibliography and a creative title page.
The geography research has helped prepare the students for their larger social studies research project in the spring. But more importantly this has started them on the path of knowing how to find the information they are interested in learning.