"The last thousand years have brought us many important people who have made significant contributions to our history," Gerardo Barrios, a social studies teacher at Nobel Middle School in Los Angeles, will tell his students this week. Then Barrios will share an issue of Life magazine that includes a list of 100 of those people.
"You don't have to agree with the list," Barrios will tell his students. "It's merely an instrument for class discussion."
Then Barrios will challenge each of his students to select from the list an individual who intrigues them. The students will become that individual for the remainder of the semester!
"This means that you have to find out as much as you can about this person," Barrios tells the students. "At the end of the semester, you will put on a 15-minute oral presentation -- told in the first-person -- about the life of this individual, his or her accomplishments, and the impact he or she made."
Barrios used a similar classroom project for the last two years. This year -- the year leading up to the new millennium -- the project takes on a new dimension. Barrios has published the plan for his students' Millennium Project on his school Web page. Among the activities detailed in that plan are the following:
Last year, student Soumyagit S. "became" Sir Isaac Newton for a semester. "I got much knowledge [about] my person and got to explore new, creative ideas in order to make my person come to life," Soumyagit told Education World. Kelsie W. became Joan of Arc. "The most useful thing [I learned] was about Joan of Arc's mistakes and how I could learn from them and apply those lessons to my everyday life," she said.
"In the past, students have made very realistic Treasure Chests, scientific tools, science models, and maps," Barrios told Education World. "Their oral presentations come to life with great costumes, home-made videos, even students playing instruments for a more personal touch."
The students spend about four months doing research, and they turn in different parts of the assignment as the semester goes along, added Barrios. Throughout the semester, he emphasizes to his students the importance of relying on primary source materials as they do their research.
"In celebration of the millennium, K-3 students will investigate from their region of the country and the world," said Peter Waxler, one of the kindergarten teachers. "Students will select in their areas from two or three time periods over the last 1,000 years. We will post descriptions of the , along with drawings or photographs, on a class page on our Web site. Other classes are then encouraged to view the pages and to send e-mail messages with questions or positive comments."
If this millennium project sounds like one you'd like to be involved in, go to the site and register now. Registration for the project ends January 17. Materials can be submitted for posting until April 10.
"In the weeks ahead, the kindergarten classes at Germantown Academy will visit three in the Philadelphia area," said Waxler. They'll visit a Lenape Indian wigwam, which represents an area home of 1,000 to 500 years ago; a colonial farm of 400 to 200 years ago; and a Victorian mansion built about 100 years ago. After visiting the , students will write a group description of each home, including information about the
The Throughout the Millennium Web site includes a long list of Internet resources that teachers can use to introduce the evolving history of , added Waxler.
"My fourth and fifth graders developed this project," Hoppenstein told Education World. "The kids came up with the idea after participating in another online project. They decided they wanted to share their own ideas about the new millennium and find out what other kids think."
Visitors can take a look at some of the MM Club Detectives predictions about the future; and students in other schools can add their own predictions to the site's Millennium Mystery page. The best prediction submitted each month earns that student a Millennium Mystery T-shirt and a certificate!
v This year, Hoppenstein took the students' work to the next level. She added a Master the millennium lesson plan to the site. The lesson was created for third to fifth graders but, Hoppenstein notes, it could easily be adapted for use in middle or high school. The lesson challenges students to study a special "invention history" Web site and to use what they learn there to create their own inventions for the future. After students create the inventions, they use a Web publishing program to build futuristic newsletters to announce, describe, and show digital photographs of them. The first of the student-created invention newsletters will be posted on the Web page soon!
Those are the questions teacher Catherine Peterson asked her sixth graders in Salt Lake City, Utah. The result is a lesson plan called Manifesto for the New Millennium, which Peterson and her colleagues Cathy Miller and Gail Wright have posted to their district's Web page. The lesson challenges students to generate a product to express their ideas for solving world problems.
"The possibilities, and their ideas, are endless," Peterson told Education World. "The students get really excited about the difference they can make. They are enthusiastic and willing to overcome obstacles to get something done."
The students' products can take many forms. The lesson plan's suggested products include essays, poetry, allegories, and songs. Other products might be posters, dioramas, sculptures, or paintings. Students can also write plays, perform dramatic presentations or dances, make models, write research reports, make time capsules, create puzzles, produce computer presentations, make games, or create photographic displays.
"The students I have worked with have really come up with some great ideas," said Peterson. "They've created inventions to make recycling easier, peace roundtables at the local level, pollution reducers, youth initiatives to share the wealth and end poverty, music written with peace themes."
Peterson's students began the lesson by brainstorming problems and creating a manifesto, or governing principles, that would guide them as they created ways to solve those problems. The students' list and the principles they established are posted on the Manifesto Web page, along with Sample Student Work.
"The Manifesto for a New Millennium is really an idea starter, a call for students to pledge to make a positive difference," Peterson commented. "Teachers can adapt the plan in nearly every subject area to meet their needs. It can be a simple project, or it can be used to extend out to the community and the world in many ways."
"I hope that teachers recognize the possibilities for using this unit with all age levels," added Wright, district technology curriculum integration coordinator. "I have worked with middle and high school teachers to implement this unit. Each teacher implements it differently. One teacher broke the students up into groups. They used Inspiration software for brainstorming and computer-aided-design software to design a solution."
Teachers can submit student-created products to Peterson via email at email@example.com. There is even the possibility that the work might be published in book form in the year 2000!
Art 2000. The Imagination Factory is offering a Mail Your Art 2000 international mail art show for children ages 12 and under. The theme of this art show is "Living in the Mirror."
Learning in A.D. 999 The year is A.D. 999, and you're at the turning point of a new millennium. Students will role-play the parts of present day teachers and students during the Middle Ages in this activity, It's 999 A.D. and You're the Teacher, from Encarta Online. Encarta provides the resources for students to learn about life in Western Europe at the time. For additional lessons, see the Encarta Millennium Lesson Collection.
Time Zones and the New Year. The Time Zones and the New Year lesson from PBS's TeacherSource http://www.pbs.org/teachersource/thismonth/index.shtm will help students connect geography, time zones, and the new millennium. Each child is assigned a time zone. The student selects a city in that time zone and uses selected online resources to learn more about the city and how people there might celebrate the dawn of the millennium.
Explorers of the Millennium. Look at this student-created Web site, one of the winners in this year's ThinkQuest Jr. competition. Click on the Timeline link on Explorers of the Millennium to see which explorers the students included. Display some of those explorers around a map of the world. Challenge students to research and nominate an explorer who is not on the list. They can even submit their nominations to the kids who created this award-winning site. Each student will then write her or his own report about that person for display around the map.
JumpStart 2000. Students work in teams of four to solve real problems facing their communities and the world in the JumpStart 2000 contest sponsored by Parade and react magazines. Resources at this site include guidelines and entry forms, a problem-solving tip sheet for student teams, and tips for teachers as they coach students on their projects. Six top winners will receive national recognition as well as $500 to create a demonstration of their innovative solution to a problem.
Beyond 2000. Will watches have video displays? Will cities float? Will cars drive themselves? What are your predictions for the next millennium? Students can read a few predictions from the pages of National Geographic's Beyond 2000 Web site and then submit their own predictions.
of the Future. Twenty years from now, where will you live? What type of family will you have? How will you be connected to the world? What will your house look like? The Unreal Estate activity from the Newspapers in Education arm of Long Island Newsday challenges your students to design their future . The activity is one of many activities from the newspaper's Our Future lesson plans page.
Twenty-First Century Time Capsule. In this activity, students think about, discuss, read about, write about, research, formulate, and evaluate ideas related to developments in the 20th century. The activity opens with a discussion of which item -- a cordless telephone or cell phone, a television, a CD player, or a personal computer -- would be most difficult to live without. Then the class is divided into groups to brainstorm and discuss what students believe is the most important technological development of the 20th century. Each group gives a brief argument for its choice. Then the class debates the different choices and votes for one development to represent the 20th century. After the debate, students will prepare a time capsule to be opened in 100 years. Discovery.com created the entire Twenty-First Century Time Capsule activity -- including student handouts.
Picture the Future. The Picture the Future interdisciplinary learning project will engage K-12 students. Working in teams with educators, community leaders, and professionals in many fields, young people will weave the arts, sciences, and humanities into an exploration of their own communities. They will learn about the best of the past and present and apply it to the future. The result: a new community that is scientifically sound and offers a high quality of life, in which they would be proud to live. The U.S. Department of Education, NASA and its Jet Propulsion Laboratory, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the J. Paul Getty Trust developed this project.
Article by Gary Hopkins
Education World® Editor-in-Chief
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