Sunday, September 9, 2012

Alex's Assignment: Create Your Own Civilization



Song:  World Of Warcraft - Music of Stormwind

Artist:  Unknown - Blizzard Entertainment



Last week...
 Alex was assigned to create his own civilization for Social Studies
(due this week).

He had to include a drawing of the people...
a map with at least 5 major geographical features...
their use of the land and their interaction amongst various peoples...
their housing, professions, economy base, technology...etc...
and a legend of the people.

This was a two day project for us.

We started it yesterday after we had awakened in the late afternoon...
as we had awakened at 4:00 A.M. earlier that day for the Balloon Festival.

I had Alex finish it up today
(he also had to finish his Science Experiment Proposal...more on this later).



The map was easy...
it was a combination of California, Nevada, and the Nile river :)
















A typical Brainstorming / Story Construction session for Alex's papers.

Initial Premise...
Story Components...
Outlining...
Research...
Rough Draft...
Editing...
Final Draft.

I had guided Alex in his basic story outline for his legend.
We brainstormed together for the details
(with major hints from me concerning technology involved).
He then fleshed out the story.

I had explained that 200 years was not enough for evolution
to have taken place in the mountain people's stature...
so they were the ones who originally tolerated the altitude and cold easily...
and so, bred within their smaller numbers...
giving them their uniformly short, stocky and barrel chested stature.

I had also explained about how the people could use nature to their
advantage in supplying their power needs for free
 (solar, wind, river currents, and gravity).

I used the Socratic Method as much as possible in getting him to
come up with ideas and getting them incorporated into the story.

Although Alex drew everything...
his mother had drawn him an example to follow...
as neither, Alex, nor I, can draw at all.

This exercise was made easier as the teacher
had listed everything he had wanted to see in the report.

We merely used his informational sheet as a checklist to 
ensure we had included everything.

Before anyone thinks that by my guiding Alex
in the generation of ideas used in his stories is somehow cheating...
I say that it is an exercise in teaching and learning.

I explain not only the reasons behind the ideas...
but the methods I use in coming up with them...
how to arrange the thought process into categories of necessity...
how to outline these thoughts into a few words representing the ideas
so they may form the basis of a fleshed out sentence...
and how to group these ideas into paragraphs...
and into a coherent paper from a general overall outline.

Again...
it is through the use of guided questions to get him to generate ideas
(Socratic Method of teaching).

I know the direction we need to head in.
I lead him there by asking pertinent questions...
getting more specific to get more specific answers.

Ex...The leader wanted to escape their old land...
he was running from something disastrous.
What happened in the dark ages of Europe?  
What killed many people then?
What could make people want to leave their old homes in 
search of a new place?

How could they travel long distances with a lot of people...
and if they live near the ocean?

What professions do civilizations need to prosper?

What can they do in forests to give them materials?

What can they get from the sea to live?

What can they do to harness the sun?

How would they focus the sun's rays?...and to do what?

These are examples of how I had directed Alex to come up with
the ideas necessary for his paper.

With these questions...
he learns not only the details necessary for his assignment...
he learns how to arrive at the answers through proper questions.

He may then learn how to ask himself these all important questions
in future projects as he gets accustomed to this method
(you must know what the question is (problem to solve)...
before attempting to answer).

I will be buying supplies for his Science Experiment.

He will attempt to answer, through a two month long experiment...
as to which portion of the visible light spectrum is most valuable
in the growth of a plant.

I will detail this in a later article.

2 comments:

  1. Yet another very ambitious assignment. And again I am curious to know the school's perspective (which you probably do not know). Is the project the culmination of learning the students have already done? Or does the learning happen primarily through doing this assignment and through the discussion and sharing afterward? I know that I would find it difficult to do this on my own. I say you did well to make this an excellent learning experience for Alex, rather than a fruitless, frustrating one.

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  2. Coral Academy prides itself in giving a rigorous program of advanced studies in Math, Science, English (Reading and Writing). They have daily classes of the core courses. Advanced reading and writing skills are stressed in all of the classes.

    This last project (civilization) was a bit more involved than the last one. He has been getting about one a week from just one of his classes (these type projects). We also have a major paper coming due sometime soon (comparative analysis - two historical events - historical brief and sociological impact). Right now we are getting started on his science project. After initiating it (two month process - data recording for later analysis) it will give us time to start the Social Science project. We will have more of the shorter term projects in the meantime. Our weekends are booked solid with project completion. He will also have a major English paper to complete sometime soon - what it is... we have yet to find out.

    Alex is in an honors class (4.0 average)... so they expect more from him. Although I don't know how Alex's papers compare with the others' papers...I do know from the parent / teacher meeting that his teacher expects well thought out and written paperwork. He stresses frequent reports as this is the basis for a solid foundation for High School reports...and eventually for University.

    I do know that with the numerous reports expected from him...he will learn how to write well. It is a steep learning curve for him right now...but it is good as this was his weakest area. I expect that soon he will be able to do these without much of my input.

    Coral Academy is all about College preparation. So far as the school thinking that the students already know the material...I would have to say no. I think they use these assignments as a way to stretch the students abilities so they have to research extensively before completing the assignment. The teacher has a web site where he lists his comments. He had expressed disappointment for some of his student's papers because he said he knew they hadn't researched their topics well enough. I think they are using these reports as a means of teaching them the necessity of thorough research and the proper outlining and writing of a paper.

    I look forward to his assignments as they take the place of my own lessons for Alex, in essay writing. I get to teach Alex new things in the course of his studies. The students also often present their essays to the class. That, in itself, is also a mini speech class. Alex is improving with each paper written. With each paper, Alex is able to generate more original thoughts and he needs less prompting by me.

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