On my students’ progress reports, there are a total of two standards for social studies. One of these standards covers the important people, place, and events of American history from pre-Columbian civilisations up to (but not including) the Civil War. Because this covers thousands of years of history, we break it down into a series of periods, guided by this question: what have been the events that have ultimately led to all of us being right here where we are right now?
One of our first units is on European exploration. I use this as the foundation of one of our short independent research projects for the year. There are enough European explorers that each student is able to research a different one. Much as I did for our Great Lakes fish reports, I gave the students the name of an explorer and asked them to come up with questions they could ask to learn more about him. (Unfortunately, all of the European explorers are men.) I told them about Bartolomé de las Casas, a contemporary and one-time traveling companion to Christopher Columbus. (None of the students are going to research Columbus, incidentally, because he’s too famous.) I wanted to keep the questions limited to ten. Here are the ones they came up with:
- Where is he from?
- When was he born and when did he die?
- Where did he explore?
- Who explored with him?
- What did he explore?
- What did he do for a living?
- What hat did he find while exploring?
- What did he eat?
- Why did he explore?
- How did he feel about the native people he met?
The students chose their explorers today. They will conduct research each day for the next week, preparing a final report on what they have learned and sharing their findings with their classmates. I am looking forward to using the Chromebooks for this process, as I think it will make the research much easier. They can still use print books and research at home, of course, but the goal is for most of the work to be done at school.
Oh, and I am researching an explorer, too, as part of my goal to prove that I really won’t ask my students to do anything I won’t do myself!