“Two sides of the same coin” One side shows 9/11 and the other side shows American acts of aggression.
Sometimes old projects can be repeated and sometimes they need a makeover. In the past we did a 12 week study of American foreign policy starting with the Spanish American War (SAW) and ending with Middle Eastern conflict today. It was too long and students could not see the relevance of the SAW part until the end. So this year we did one project combining SAW and 9/11. We also read Ender’s Game to tie it all together.
We have always struggled to bring relevance to SAW as it is obscure and not given much space in most classes. We believe that it is vital in showing the beginning of American policy of intervention around the world, often by imperialistic means. We had students explore whether the United States was motivated more by Manifest Destiny or Imperialism through out the past 100 years in specific interventions.
“Two hand, one gun” Perspective on our relationships with Iraq
The final product was a monument as “Speaker for the Dead” (from Ender’s Game) where they had to represent American foreign policy from multiple viewpoints including a non-American view. They also needed to have symbolism reflected in their piece. Students were challenged to look at America as not always “good” or a “hero” but consider the complexity of our actions and realize that we have made both good and poor decisions through out our history.
“America’s shadow” The shadow of America is on Palestine but as time passes it shifts to Israel representing a hope for balance in our actions there.
Previously students made monuments only based on 9/11 and many of them looked similar. By giving them more options (yeah voice and choice!) we had better variety and deeper analysis from students. We are definitely happy with the results of these “recycled” projects. Sometimes we fail in our first attempt on PBL but often we just need to re-package it in a more student friendly way. Student voice and choice is always important to making this happen.
Do you re-use projects? How have you successfully (or unsuccessfully) recycled a project?
Before break we finished the last of our wars/foreign policy projects. We looked at the time period of post-Cold War to present with the defining event being 9/11. The driving question was “Why did 9/11 happen and how should we respond to terrorism?” We also read Ender’s Game.
For our entry event we read an article to students about China capturing and torturing Tibetan citizens including some shockingly crude details. Students were disturbed by this, but then we revealed that we had doctored the article. Actually it was about what the United States did at Abu Ghraib to Iraqis, not about China at all. This set up part of what we wanted students to do for this project, look at events from the viewpoint of outside of America.
We then jigsawed looking at American interventions post Cold War. We did go back into the 1970’s for American actions in the Middle East to give students the perspective of how involved we have been in that part of the world. We also used the graphic novel version of the 9/11 Commission report to review the causes, events, and immediate after effects of 9/11.
Flags of countries with the years that America “intervened” in leading up to 9/11.
For the final phase of the project we applied Ender’s Game to the events (warning the next paragraphs contains spoilers for the book and the movie). In the book Ender unknowingly destroys the Bugger’s home world in a genocide. But unknown to anyone else, Ender finds an egg containing a queen Bugger for a future colony. More importantly, the Buggers communicate telepathically to Ender and he learns their whole history. Ender feels terrible that he destroyed them and part of his healing is that he anonymously writes their complete history as “Speaker for the Dead.” This book becomes popular through out the universe leading to a sort of religion. People become Speakers for the Dead and travel around and give eulogies at funerals where they explain people’s lives in totality, the good, bad and the ugly. People find the truth very liberating.
The final product was for students to create a monument design for 9/11 as “Speaker for the Dead.” We wanted students to create a design that was complex representing the totality of the events, including causes and U.S. actions afterward in Iraq and Afghanistan. We spent a few days looking at existing monuments and the symbolism behind them. Many students struggled with interpreting symbolism at first, but by the time they designed their own monument it was making sense to them. Students created some great designs, some of them drawings or physical models and other in Mine craft or Sketchup (some examples on our Face Book page). Not all of them “look” great as far as the models go, but their explanations of the symbolism behind them demonstrated that they understand both the social studies and ELA content and applied it deeply. Most important to me is that we had some good conversations about how America can look to solve future problems with out being a bully, over bearing mother, or supercop of the world.