The 8th grade Humanities class recently wrapped up its month-long, collaborative, map-making, research project on US cultural geography. Academically, the students were challenged to understand how the way people live affects where they live (and vice-versa). On this level, the project is about making connections from the land to the people and trying to grasp the breadth of interconnections that goes into everything.
Students must work individually, in small groups, and as a cohesive class to discover and find a way to visually represent the personality of each state in an effort to understand cultural similarities and differences in various parts of the country. They also learn how to problem-solve creatively and work efficiently in a deadline situation.
For maximum creativity on the artistic part of the project, the kids tried to employ “Think Like a Genius” methods, including looking at problems from multiple angles, making novel combinations, and using symbolism. In terms of working together, they were asked to follow a number of “Cooperation Guidelines,” including listening, asking strong questions, encouraging others with positive feedback, disagreeing in an agreeable way, and the ever-popular STAY ON TASK. They would track their progress with weekly reflections, and regular formative assessments also led to greater self-awareness and personal growth as the project proceeded.
The result is a beautiful map, a solid introduction to US cultural values, a more cohesive class, and a toolbox of powerful strategies for collaboration, critical thinking, and creative problem-solving.