I am not sure who is having more fun during our current class project, my students or me. Right now my U.S. History students are in a project called Westward Bound! In this project, the students are studying the era of westward expansion and life on the frontier. The students are creating fact sheets as they research and become experts in two of the areas of study from our G.R.A.P.E.S. categories (Geography, Religion, Achievements, Politics, Economics, and Social Structure) on either the Oregon, California, or Santa Fe trails. After they research, and become experts in their areas of study, they will begin working on some others parts to the project.
The other pieces to the project include creating a board or video game about life on the trails / frontier, a final large group presentation with visual aids, and writing an essay called The Dream of the 1890's is Alive @ iTech (I'm a Portlandia nut). I got the idea for the essay from Twitter when a link to Mr. Fladd's blog TeacherToys and his post More Christmas Shopping, Still Without a Flux Capacitor crossed my feed. As I read through his post, I kept thinking about how cool it would be to do something similar in my own classroom.
As I began developing my Westward Bound! unit I thought that an adaptation of this assignment would fit in perfectly. The students get to analyze primary source documents, create a story about life on the frontier, and justify their analysis. Here are the requirements of the essay:
The Dream of the 1890's is Alive @ iTech
In this assignment you will be traveling back in time to the year 1897. Imagine that your entire current family has traveled with you on your trail (Santa Fe, Oregon, or California) and you have established a new life and become rooted in your new home out west. You are now living in your new frontier city of Santa Fe, Oregon City, or Sacramento. It is getting close to the holiday season, and you are in charge of buying gifts for your entire family. You will have $20.00 total to spend, and be buying your gifts from the Sears catalog from 1897. As you write your essay, you will have to answer the following questions/facts:
• Describe your family.
How many people are in your family?
How old are they?
What do they do for a living?
• What do you buy as gifts for your family?
How much do they cost?
Why are you picking that gift for that person?
• What would the cost of the items be adjusted to current day prices?
• If you had the same amount of money from 1897, adjust to today's prices, what could/would you buy your family from the Sears website?
You can use this website to help you do the cost conversions. http://www.westegg.com/inflation/
I am excited and anxious to see the results of this as we progress though Westward Bound! It is a great feeling to see the students so engaged and excited everyday. And, the conversations that are being had between students are informative, educational, and fun!