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The Forgotten Americans


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Project

Grade Levels: 7-12

Estimated Time: Two weeks to gather information, work with the groups and develop an essay.

Overview: Students will gain an understanding of the democratic process through a hands-on project involving community organizing.

Objectives:

The students will:

  • Learn about the democratic process.
  • Gain a better understanding of local government.
  • Gain a better understanding of community organizing.
  • Record the experience.

Related National Standards:

  • Social Studies
  • Economics
  • Health Education
  • Technology

Procedure:

  • Select groups of four of five students and have them examine neighborhoods in your town.
  • Have each group choose a different neighborhood in your town. At least one group should select one of the less affluent areas of town and one should choose the most affluent.
  • Have each group create an asset map of the neighborhood they have selected. What buildings are there? What community groups or other programs are in place to work in the neighborhood?
  • Have the students take notes about the conditions of the roads, parks, libraries and other public services. Have the students take notes about those same public services in the wealthier part of town.
  • Have the students compare what they find and discuss the differences and similarities.

Assignment:

  • Have the students write a report comparing the differences in neighborhoods.
  • Have the students research economic conditions of the area and discuss what can be done to improve their town.

Assessment Recommendations:

  • Teachers should set standards for the project before it is assigned based on individual work and group work. Also, teachers should determine how much time should be spent on the lesson as well as the amount of research required. For example, seek student input on what will make a successful report and how it should be presented to the class.
  • Ask your students to grade themselves and their peers. Decide as a class what percentage of the total grade should come from peer feedback and self-assessment.
  • Decide on specific skills that you want to emphasize, for example, group work, leadership, research abilities, collective learning, and presentation skills, and grade accordingly.

Extension and/or Adaptation Ideas:

  • Have the students write letters to the editor of the local newspaper describing the differences in community services.
  • Have the group or each individual student develop a photo essay to illustrate the differences.
  • Have the students make appointments with city or county officials, express their concerns, and present their plan.
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