Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Amazing Race Across the United States

Okay, so this blog post is long overdue...I am almost embarrassed to be posting this months later, but better late than never. Although Angela and I won't be tackling the Regions of the United States this year, we know many of you may be, so hopefully you'll find this post informational.

During our summer co-planning meeting, our 4th grade team was trying to come up with a creative way to teach the Regions of the United States. We had quickly brainstormed ideas, but with the start of school, and all that comes with that, our enthusiasm and ideas fell by the wayside. Then, last December (yes, over a year ago...shhhh), I met with Drew & Laurie, two incredible teachers from a neighboring school district. They agreed to jump into my "crazy pool" and look for ways to bring interaction and fun into an upcoming Social Studies unit. In the past, teaching the Regions of the States, states and capitals, along with other general information about each area of our country, has been rather dry and boring. Our goal was to enjoy a warm cup of a coffee at a cozy cafe and plan an engaging and meaningful inquiry unit for the Regions of the United States. It was then that the ideas for the Amazing Race Across the United States was born.

We spent that initial morning hashing out a few clues, creating collaborative docs and brainstorming next steps. With the caffeine flowing, we surprisingly got quite a bit accomplished. We continued to work together, from afar, and by the end of April we were ready to tackle the Amazing Race with our students. We had hopes of having our students compete against each other, but with timing, field trips, and everything else that happens at the end of the year, that didn't happen. What did happen was a lot of laughter & learning! 

The Amazing Race Across the United States is a fun and interactive way for your students to explore the Regions of the United States. Our students had a blast RACING across the United States using this fun inquiry project
We introduced our students to Google Maps, and they used Maps to track their journey across the states. Within Google Maps, they collaborated with their group to insert images and generate newly learned information about each Pit Stop Road Clue. As the groups worked through the tourist attraction Pit Stops, Angela and I bombarded them with Detours and Road Blocks. They bundled up and made hallway "snow angels" during a Nor'eastern blizzard and "Gator Chomped" our assistant principal while visiting the Everglades. They crab walked their way down the coast of Maine and "hula hooped" through Tornado Alley. 

It was a great way to add inquiry, student voice and choice, and self-pacing to a formerly dull unit. The project encouraged collaboration, creativity, and critical thinking skills, as the students “RACED” with their team across the United States of America to learn more about our “AMAZING” country!





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~ Kate

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