View Lessons by Subject > Social Studies & Government > Multi-Modal Projects & Interdisciplinary Learning
Students at [our school] take a full year of the American Government course in the 8th grade. In this class students learn about the philosophical underpinnings of the U.S. government. They study the Constitution and Bill of Rights, they learn about the branches and functioning of the government, and they examine how the government works. There are many history courses taught in the [school] curriculum, but the “Am. Gov.” course attempts to present information from a unique perspective - it examines current politics. Students literally take what is being said from the front pages of the news and apply it to the study of government. In doing so, examples are given about what is being studied currently, and it is hoped that habits develop so students will continue to be aware of and follow the news. One goal of the course is to promote involved citizenship because it is believed the best citizens are well informed.

In the fall, students are introduced to the news. It is assumed that many don’t read newspapers or news websites already. So, as part of the course materials, each student receives a bi-weekly copy of Upfront magazine. This is an age-appropriate news magazine, published by Scholastic but deriving its articles from the New York Times. Students have found this magazine especially engaging because it contains current news, historical articles, and items of general interest. The combination, along with an attractive format, makes it desirable. Along with the Upfront, students are gradually introduced to the news. They are taught the sections of a newspaper and how to read a paper version. At the same time, they are taught what websites are most reliable and thus give credible news. They explore websites which lean toward the left or right and they contrast news coverage of the same event by each of these sites. Finally, students search for news stories and are encouraged to visit broadcast as well as print sources - NPR is encouraged as a reliable site as well.

In the spring semester, each student is assigned one week to present the news of the week. When her week comes, a student will have made a PowerPoint summarizing key news stories. She must do at least 2 local, 2 national, and 2 international stories. She must also include a cartoon which is about a news story, there must be a bibliography of her sources, and she must have “multi-media” in the presentation to address different learning styles (maps, photos, charts, graphs, videos, audio, etc.) She has the entire period to present and lead a discussion on the news. She can follow up a news story which a previous student explained the week before, or she can introduce entire new stories. Her grade is based on a number of factors, but the most important is knowing the news beyond the headline - that is, having a grasp of the facts and also bringing up points which analyze what happened and why people did what they did.

By the end of the year, most students become news “junkies.” They will come to my classroom to tell me about an event, they will be excited/angry/thrilled/ that something happened last night. To complement this part of the course, we often arrange a trip to the new “Newseum” here in Washington, DC. This is a museum dedicated to the news and to the First Amendment, and it gives students an appreciation for the long history which journalists have in bringing news to light.
In my seventh grade World Geography class, while we were studying the Middle East, I had girls work in small groups to produce a morning news program (think: Good Morning America, The Today Show, etc.) from a Middle Eastern country. Each team was assigned a country, they had to research the country, especially current events, and produce five segments for their news program. One segment was pre-taped that the (student) anchors would “throw to” during their news program. Another segment had to be a live interview (of another student representing) a person of significance within their country. For example, they might interview the Prime Minister of their country. My students were very engaged in this project. It allowed them to express their individual creativity by developing unique news segments. Yet, it required them to research the history and culture of a Middle Eastern country. In conjunction with this project, my lessons focused on the overall common history of this region, as well as the common elements of culture. The girls were able to look at the history and culture of this region holistically, then adapt their understanding to their individual countries. Additionally, I taught the students specific research skills such as evaluating sources and considering bias. Lastly, this project required the students to work on their organizational skills-- they needed to create a “run of show” schedule, document their research, assign roles to one another-- as well as their team work. This was not a project that one student could commandeer and the remaining be dragged along. This project required everyone to pitch in.