A military in the country project you created? My students said no! | Mentoring in the Middle

A military in the country project you created? My students said no!

  You've got to love the optimistic spirit of 6th graders! In the country projects they created, almost no country has a military.  

"There is no military.  Because no one believes in war."  

The most common laws? "Don't steal, don't lie, don't cheat."  

What a world it would be if we abided by their rules!

a picture of mountains and a lake that says Create a Country Project
Create a Country Project
Why do this Create a Country project?

Create a Country is a great combination of blended learning: Social Studies, English, and Art.  If you're looking for a way to have your kids show you what they know in one or more of these subjects, you'll be delighted by what your students do!

The hands-on nature is a nice break from other kinds of learning.  Students need to use their geographic knowledge to incorporate all the landforms in their project, they use critical thinking skills for locations and relationships between towns and landforms.  Informational writing skills are reinforced with a dose of creativity!

An added bonus: I've watched unlikely partnerships emerge as one student helps another brainstorm or finish coloring an ocean that took up more of the poster board than was anticipated.  It's really lovely to see.

When's the best time to introduce the Country project?
I've inserted this project at DIFFERENT TIMES of the year.
  • the beginning of the year when you're first learning about Geography before you move into History
  • Mid-year when kids need a break from structured work this gives them the freedom to be creative, but with an academic focus.  (You can assess them in Social Studies and in ELA, and in multiple ways.  Or one or the other.  Or not at all!)
  • It's a great before-a-big-break or end-of-the-year project.  When kids are getting restless, nothing says fun like laying on the floor designing and coloring your country.
What if I only teach ELA?
I've done this project both as an ELA and as a Social Studies teacher.  It's important background-building for ELA.  How can a student understand the challenges faced by Isabel, Joseph, or Mahmoud in Refugee if they don't know where Cuba is?  Or the Mediterranean Sea?

After designing their country around a theme, students will begin to write its history.  Use a graphic organizer like this one to help your students write about the most important aspects of their country: general information, early history, geography, government, important people, education, and lifestyle.  
Social Studies project graphic organizer
Once those ideas are in place, students write a 1 - 2 page history about how their country came to be. This is an informational piece with a creative twist.  Because of that, you may allow students to include some fantasy elements that pertain to their theme, like the dragon who created the country, or the video game win that led to a person assuming power.

Insert a mini-lesson
Discuss first sentences that hook you in, and make sure students don't give you, "I'm going to tell you about...."  

You can use sentences from books in your classroom to give students an idea.  You can read about how I use them here.

Or just make sure students understand that they want readers to be excited to move beyond the first sentence or two, so they need to engage their readers!
Create a Country project, beginning lines of country history

Review nonfiction text features like headings, sidebars, maps, and photographs with captions.  Text structures like main idea and details, compare and contrast, and descriptions are easily incorporated into their histories.

What if I only teach Social Studies?
Geography is an important foundation for Social Studies and this project fits right in.  Creating their own country means that your students have to know landforms and bodies of water.  I have them create a booklet with definitions, pictures, and real-world examples.
Geography booklet, a description and picture of a delta
You could stop there.  Or you could have them continue and create the country with the landforms and bodies of water in it.

Writing is an important part of Social Studies and you can decide if you want students to write the history of their country or just certain parts of it, depending on the time you have.  I've done both and each has its place.

The Create a Country Project 
  • If you want this comprehensive Social Studies project that is completely done for you, I have what you need.  This resource includes all the lessons you need, the geography vocabulary terms booklet with an answer key, and the graphic organizers to write the history.  You can grab the Create a Country Geography & Map Skills PBL here.  

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