Saturday, March 4, 2017


Hello, colleagues!

I'm going to share an idea that I had this week that I'm pretty excited about. Every spring, eighth grade American history teachers partner with their Language Arts teammate to do a Civil War research paper. We've done this for the past eight years that I have taught here, and it's a unit that just doesn't excite me. I don't hate the project, but I am not a fan of the content or the fact that the students create a research paper. Civil War technology is not compelling; I cannot get excited about it in any capacity (and it includes photography, and I LOVE photography). I also don't want to grade 110 research essays after I've already had the students write three analytical essays throughout the year.

Every year I want to elevate the project. I'm not trying to make it better, but am more focused on creating something that works for my students and for myself. The lightbulb went off this week when I was thinking about my Google Innovator project. I decided that I wanted to do a "trial run" with this unit. If I do or do not become a Google Innovator, I believe in character education and want to continue to elevate my content.

So my plan is to have the students research a person from the American Civil War.

They will investigate the person and find a characteristic best demonstrated by this individual.

I then want the students to take this personality feature and try to emulate it in some sort of genius hour project. My thought is that it will lead to community building, whether in the classroom, in the school, or in the community of Colorado Springs. For example, say they choose Clara Barton who was a nurse. They pick the characteristic of selflessness. They emulate Clara Barton's selflessness by performing random acts of kindness for a stranger for a week. I'm still thinking this all through, but I want them to address my unit essential question: How can we emulate the best of the past? I'm also thinking about finding primary documents for them to access through Actively Learn, and they will continue with flipped learning.

This would only, however, take up my portion of the unit. So for my Language Arts counterpart, I was inspired by a colleague who sent me a Pinterest pin about a wax museum project. I asked my colleague if she would be interested in having the students research these people (together; we have a shared wall) then present their wax figure in her class. She just ate it up!

I tried to create an eclectic bunch of people to study because I'm hoping through this project that the students emulate the best of the past and also see themselves in history. I'm not sure if I could ask for anything more.

Thanks for reading. I'll see you next week :)

- Rachel
My Teacherspayteachers website