For the past 4 years I’ve managed to slowly improve upon an integrated Social Studies project with my 5th graders. Each fall (usually around October), 5th graders in Michigan study European Explorers, the discovery of the New World, and early explorations. Wanting to spice up the rather dry text books (except for Howard Zinn’s amazing recounting of actual events and acts committed by Columbus), I decided to have the 5th graders create tradeable collector’s cards of various explorers. The idea is simple enough; since they have limited time in their classrooms to study the explorers, they can only cover a few. By giving them time in technology to work on this project they are exposed to other explorers that aren’t in their text like Leif Erickson and John Cabot.
I actually won a grant from MACUL for the webquest I put together about these Explorer Baseball Cards, but I realized this week that I hadn’t yet talked about it here on my site. I found a bunch of kid-friendly research sites (including Enchanted Learning) because I don’t see the students for enough time to let them use search engines to find the information themselves. Once they’ve gone through the webquest and have all of the information for their explorer I have them do a little bit of photo editing. I scanned and found a bunch of sports cards and then downloaded explorer photos. Each student gets a chance to use GIMP, an open source equivalent of Photoshop, to practice their graphical arts skills. They get to cut off the explorers’ heads (one of my favorite days of the year because I get them excited about “chopping off heads”), and then stretch, scale, move, and otherwise alter the image to make it appear as though that explorer is a professional wrestler, baseball player, or other sports star.
They have a blast doing it, and afterwards they paste the image they’ve created into a word document where they type up the information in a two column format. They get printed in color, cut down to the size of an actual collector’s card, folded in half so the information in the second column is on the back, and then I laminate all the cards so they’ve shiney and almost professional looking. The students are really excited about the project from start to finish, and I get to show off some of the cards I collected when I was a kid to get them excited about it. Not sure if I’m going to keep doing the project the same way next year, but I’d love to toss in some super hero cards in addition to the sports stars. Enjoy some of the students examples above; they’re some of my more favorite cards.