Unit: Create a World

Powerful Geography Project

Create a World

Developed by Ben Lewis. Additional help from Jana Poth, Whitney Crews, & Charlie Perryman

 

Subject and Grade Level:
Grade 6 Social Studies/ World Cultures

Overview for Teachers:
We have been teaching geography in Texas schools pretty much the same way for almost three decades, with a continued dependence on “top-down” curriculum guides that assume that all students need to learn the same content and skills. The National Assessment of Educational Progress in Geography has demonstrated that this approach is vacant and unable to offer growth and change in geography learning. There has been no statistically significant change in geography learning over 24 years and, in fact, a decline among Black and Hispanic students. It is time for change, and it is the responsibility of Texas teachers to bring that change about.

Powerful Geography is a new way for students in K-12 Texas schools to learn geography. It is a “bottom-up” curriculum framework that begins with the notion that school kids are very different from each other and that they have a wide variety of learning styles and aspirations for college, careers, and civic life. Powerful Geography is a way forward. It is what Wesley Null refers to as a “liberating curriculum”.

Create a World is a multi-day project where students will create their own nations which share a common world. They will make a detailed map, a Google Slides presentation, and a blog to be presented to the class. This project is designed for easy inclusion of multiple subjects. For example, science could have students create ecosystems, math could discuss money conversion, ELA could review/grade the blog.

Teacher’s Note: This works very well for a two-week, end of year project. Please feel free to omit any of the following for your specific time constraints.

TEKS:
6.1.B, 6.3.A, 6.3.C, 6.4.A-B, 6.5.A-C, 6.6.B-C, 6.9.A, 6.13.D, 6.15.B, 6.19.AC, 6.20.A-D, 6.21.A-D, 6.22.

Time:
This project is set up for a block schedule, but it can be adapted for any school schedule.

Materials:

    • A large piece of white paper for the group’s map.
    • A printer sized piece of paper for the country’s flag.
    • Access to the internet and a computer or Chromebook

Unit Objectives:
For Teachers:

    1. Introduce students to the concept of Powerful Geography
    2. Guide students into the Powerful Geography website (powerfulgeography.org)

For Students:

    1. Apply geographic knowledge and understanding in the creation of their own country.
    2. Utilize the Powerful Geography website (powerfulgeography.org) to help suggest careers and jobs that would be beneficial in the creation of their own country.

Engagement:
Students reflect…

      • A huge community map is created in a common area like the cafeteria, gym, or library. Students with the help of teachers “Stake Their Claim” and decide on each group’s country's borders. Once the borders have been established, the groups will go back to the classroom and begin designing their country.

Exploration:
Students explore …

      • Students explore the “Student Resources” section on the Powerful Geography website (powerfulgeography.org) and choose a job in geography which would help them succeed in building a nation. Later, they will incorporate the career into their project.
      • Teacher’s Note: Remind students that this resource is the connection of geography teaching and learning to the real world.

Explanation:
Students explain …

      • Every group should select a member to serve on the Global Response Team (more on this later). This group member will use the career they chose on the Powerful Geography website to help them assist countries that encounter natural disasters, economic strife, or any other crisis. Teacher’s Note: Narrow the jobs down by role. Select five or six jobs from the website that students can choose from.
      • Create flag with a logo, motto, and colors and be able to explain the reasons/symbolism for flag

Elaboration:
Students expand …

      • There are SIX daily checklists. Printing each day on a different colored piece of paper is recommended. Students will divide daily tasks among the group. The checklists are below.
      • Teacher's Note: Depending on the amount of time dedicated to this project, you can begin “Surprises” on Day 3 or after Day 6 when the country is completely created. More information on this below. On Day 4, feel free to randomize government selection.

Evaluation:
Students demonstrate …

      • Each group will create a presentation in Google Slides, a detailed map of their country, and a “blog” on a Google Doc.
      • More information on assessment at end of document

Day 1

  • Choose Group
  • Brainstorm Country name
  • Create flag
    • Flag Creator: __________________
    • Design logo, motto, and colors
    • Draw on provided paper
    • Define reasons/symbolism for flag
  • Begin Presentation (Share the document with the group)
    • Creator: ______________________
    • Create Title Slide
      • Country name
      • Group member names
    • Write Day 1 Blog
      • Blogger: _______________________
      • Describe Border Negotiations (how you selected your land)
      • Describe creation and symbolism of the flag
      • Describe the first TWO YEARS of exploration
        • Did you encounter natives?
        • What seems to be the best natural resources?
        • What seems to be some of the worst problems when it comes to the landscape?

Day 2

  • Teams will work collaboratively to identify geographical features of your country and. determine the climate of the country based on map location.
  • Draw outline map
    • Cartographer: _________________
    • Identify major geographical features of country and LABEL on the map
    • Create key
    • Create compass rose
  • Identify climate of country based on location on the planet
  • Continue presentation
    • Presentation Person: ______________
    • Climate information slide
    • Geographical information slide
  • Write Day 2 Blog (Different team member from yesterday)
    • Blogger: ____________________
    • Description of landscape, climate, and initial exploration with at least ONE story describing a challenge or a surprise.

Day 3

  • Teams will work collaboratively to determine natural resources based on geographical features of their country. Teams will decide where the resources are found, how they are used, and if they are traded or sold. Who are they traded or sold to? How does that resource affect the country?
  • Add to the map:
  • Cartographer: _____________
    • Label location of each natural resource
    • Label major transportation routes
      • Consider where the natural resources are found
      • What is the best way to transport those resources? Which route would work best?
    • Divide map into at least 4 (FOUR) different states
      • Name and label each state on the map
      • Determine the name/location of capital city of each state and place it on the map
      • Add elements of map to key for natural resources and cities
    • Continue presentation
      • Presentation: ________________
      • Add slide explaining natural resources
        • Location
        • How they are used
        • How they are transported
        • Are they traded/sold? To whom?
        • How the resources affect the country
      • Write Day 3 Blog (Different blogger from yesterday)
        • Blogger: __________________
        • Describe natural resources (how they are used, where they are found, are they traded or sold, and to whom) and how those resources affect the country

Day 4

  • Teams will work collaboratively to determine the type of government, how it works, whom the leader is, and if the government has remained the same since the beginning.
  • Catch up day on map
    • Cartographer: _______________________
    • Complete any aspects from previous days that have not been completed
  • Continue presentation
    • Presentation: ________________________
    • Add slide explaining the government
      • Type of government and how it works
      • Leader
      • Has it been the same since the beginning? If not, why the change?
    • Write Day 4 blog (Different blogger from yesterday)
      • Blogger: ___________________________
      • Collaborative Blog entry describing:
        • Government and how it works
        • Leader
        • If the same government has been in place since the beginning

Day 5

  • Teams will work collaboratively to determine the culture of the country including language, clothing, religion, traditions, holidays, greetings, and art (songs, artwork, dance).
  • Completion day for map
    • Cartographer: _______________________
      • Finish any missing elements
      • Add color and detail
      • Make sure map key is complete
    • Complete presentation
      • Presentation: ________________________
        • Add culture slide
          • Language, clothing, religion, traditions, holidays, greetings, and art
        • Make sure all slides are complete
        • Plan presentation
          • Know who will say what; be prepared for questions
        • Write Day 5 blog (Different blogger from yesterday)
          • Blogger: ___________________________
            • Describe culture (clothing, religion, traditions, holidays, greetings, and art)

Day 6 (optional science)

  • Put the finishing touches on the map with color and detail.
  • Check that the map key is complete.
  • Ecosystems Slide
    • Presentation: _________________
    • Animals, plant, food chain, biotic, and abiotic factors
    • Make sure the rest of the slides are complete.
  • Write Day 6 blog (different blogger from yesterday)
    • Describe the type of ecosystem.
    • How do humans negatively affect your country’s ecosystem?
    • How does the climate affect the ecosystem?
    • How have plants and animals developed?
    • Describe an animal habitat commonly found in your country.

Surprises!

Starting with Day 3, randomize events to throw at groups. Let them discuss with each other and with the class’s Global Response Team on how they solve the problem. Events can include but are not limited to these:
- Earthquake
- Tornado
- Monsoon
- Hurricane
- Floods
- Wildfires
- Avalanche
- Snowstorm
- Plague
- Volcanic eruption
- Assassination of leader
- Animal attacks on the rise
- Struck oil
- Discovered gold
- Meet a native population
- Diamonds were found
- Crops were damaged
- Crops came in early
- Discover new food source (plants, animals, grains, etc.)
- Go to war with any country in the room (Solved by rock, paper, scissors - best 2 out of 3)

Global Response Team

Each group will choose a member to be on the class’s Global Response Team. This team will help countries when they encounter a negative surprise. If more than one person in a group wants to be on the team, they should be interviewed by the other team members based on their knowledge of the career they selected from the Powerful Geography website’s career page.

Assessment

Assessment can be tailored to each teacher’s classroom needs. What has been proven to work for this project is a daily grade based on completion of each day’s checklist and map requirements and two major grades. One major grade is for the presentation the group delivers to the class and the other for the blog entries which are NOT presented to the class.

After the students present to the class, the teacher will ask questions to the group to determine if the students have obtained knowledge of world geography themes like government, trade, aspects of world culture, etc.

Examples of Questions:

  • I see you have red on your flag. Why choose red? What is the cultural significance of that choice?
  • Why did your group choose to place a city on the end of the peninsula?
  • How did you work together to overcome problems like natural disasters?

 

Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS):
Grade 6 Social Studies:

1. History. The student understands that historical events influence contemporary events. The student is expected to:
B. Analyze the historical background of various contemporary societies to evaluate relationships between past conflicts and current conditions.

3. Geography. The student understands the factors that influence the locations and characteristics of locations of various contemporary societies on maps and/or globes. The student is expected to:
A. Identify and explain the geographic factors responsible for patterns of population in places and regions.
C. Identify and locate major physical and human geographic features such as landforms, water bodies, and urban centers of various places and regions.

4. Geography. The student understands how geographic factors influence the economic development and political relationships of societies. The student is expected to:
A. Explain the geographic factors responsible for the location of economic activities in places and regions.
B. Identify geographic factors such as location, physical features, transportation corridors and barriers, and distribution of natural resources that influence a society's political relationships.

5. Geography.  The student understands the impact of interactions between people and the physical environment on the development and conditions of places and regions. The student is expected to:
A. Describe ways people have been impacted by physical processes such as earthquakes and climate.
B. Identify and analyze ways people have adapted to the physical environment in various places and regions.
C. Identify and analyze ways people have modified the physical environment such as mining, irrigation, and transportation infrastructure.

6. Economics. The student understands the factors of production in a society's economy. The student is expected to:
B. Identify problems that may arise when one or more of the factors of production is in relatively short supply.
C. Explain the impact of the distribution of resources on international trade and economic interdependence among and within societies.

9. Government. The student understands the concepts of limited and unlimited governments. The student is expected to:
A. Describe and compare examples of limited and unlimited governments such as constitutional (limited) and totalitarian (unlimited).

13. Culture. The student understands the similarities and differences within and among cultures in various world societies. The student is expected to:
D. Identify and explain examples of conflict and cooperation between and among cultures.

15. Culture. The student understands relationships that exist among world cultures. The student is expected to:
B. Identify and describe factors that influence cultural change such as improvements in communication, transportation, and economic development.

19. Social studies skills. The student applies critical-thinking skills to organize and use information acquired through established research methodologies from a variety of valid sources, including technology. The student is expected to:
A. Differentiate between, locate, and use valid primary and secondary sources such as oral, print, and visual material and artifacts to acquire information about various world cultures.
C. Organize and interpret information from outlines, reports, databases, and visuals, including graphs, charts, timelines, and maps.

20. Social studies skills. The student uses geographic tools to collect, analyze, and interpret data. The student is expected to:
A. Answer geographic questions, including: Where is it located? Why is it there? What is significant about its location? How is its location related to the location of other people, places, and environments? Using latitude and longitude, where is it located?
B. Pose and answer questions about geographic distributions and patterns for various world regions and countries shown on maps, graphs, and charts.
C. Compare various world regions and countries using data from maps, graphs, and charts.
D. Create and interpret regional sketch maps, thematic maps, graphs, and charts depicting aspects such as population, disease, and economic activities of various world regions and countries.

21. Social studies skills. The student communicates in written, oral, and visual forms. The student is expected to:
A. Use social studies terminology correctly.
B. Incorporate main and supporting ideas in verbal and written communication based on research.
C. Express ideas orally based on research and experiences.
D. Create written and visual material such as journal entries, reports, graphic organizers, outlines, and bibliographies based on research.

22.  Social studies skills. The student uses problem-solving and decision-making skills, working independently and with others. The student is expected to use problem-solving and decision-making processes to identify a problem, gather information, list and consider options, consider advantages and disadvantages, choose and implement a solution, and evaluate the effectiveness of the solution.