July 12, 2013

The Native American Mall Project

One of the most fun and learning worthy projects my teaching partner, Lisa, and I did this year with our kids was the Native American Mall Project.  For Social Studies, we must cover the Native Americans of Florida.  So I went about finding a way to cover the information in a research/project based fashion. 

One of my favorite jumpstart places is a book called 51 Wacky We-Search Reports by Barry Lane.  There are just some fun, silly ideas that get the mind working.  And that’s exactly what happened with mine!  I suddenly was struck with the idea that all of the things we wanted the kids to learn about-food, dress, house ware, hardware, and what they looked like, could all be found in STORES!  Yes, some strange thought lead to this, and that lead to the Native American Mall Project. 

First, I showed them how to do the research. Within the packet is a sample research page.  The kids research their Native American tribe for a week at school.  During that week, they worked on the research based on how the team itself, that consisted of 5 kids, decided!  Yes, I let them decide.  Some groups assigned each child a topic, others did all the research separate and then came together to discuss what they agreed on, and some worked all together.  It was very interesting to see what each group decided.  It was also more interesting to see the kids that sat back and didn’t do the work, only to find out the rest of the group wasn’t just going to give it to them!  Yes, this is 4th grade, where they can make those kinds of decisions and teach others a lesson while still being fair and nice about it!  All of the research was completed in mini notebook that was collected with their final projects and scored on the rubric! 

Once this was completed, the teams also decided who would be doing what store for their wing of the mall.  I was waiting for complaints and concerns about not being able to do a particular task, but there where none!  The kids had, on their own, decided who was doing what even before this final meeting.  So, off went the notes and the booklet home to complete the second phase of work-the at home project! It is important to note that this phase can also be done in the classroom!  It is not necessary to send the projects home to be completed!  They had one week to complete the project end of the activity.

Now, this can be approached two ways.  My directions to the kids included that they had to be flat projects that could be attached to the wall of the hall.  Lisa, my teaching partner, directed the kids that it could be either a poster or a creative replication.  When you use this project, be sure you know what you want the kids to do.  She was ready to display their projects on flat tables. I was in a location in my hall that would have lead to some disasters occurring if I had done that.  I have lots of little hands going by my room.  Both types of projects were amazing, so either will work!

Once the projects came to school, then the students presented them orally.  We had worked a lot this year on how to present your information, both visually and orally, so I was really pleased with what they shared.  Some were very simple, and to the point. Others were elaborate and may have missed the point!  One thing I gleaned from this experience was that I REALLY have to stress that it needs to address the whole tribe.  What was important to that tribe and how do you prove it in your work.  That’s what seemed to happen to the few kids who missed the mark. They focused on one thing, or person, to represent the whole tribe and couldn’t tell about the whole tribes needs, ideas, etc. 

I did take lots of pictures and will eventually create and offer a power point that discusses these very things, including strong and weak presentations, how to improve simple presentations, and what a great presentation looks like!

In the meantime, here are some of the finished products!

This one is very fun and included a complete sales pitch by the student!  
This movie poster included information about the "Fierce People"!

This is a great example of how you can be very creative and still be "flat" to hang on the wall!
The way my room is, I can't take a direct picture.  Notice I had one student who did boxes.  He also was able to show me how I can hang them on the wall!  It just worked out that his tribe was at the bottom of Florida!

The other side of the project wall!

For the Native American Mall Packet, click here!  

Thanks for stopping by and I hope this project will inspire you to try Project Based Learning if you have never done it before!

Julie :O)

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