For the past week, Erika Gascho’s fifth-grade students have worked on a project that combines all the concepts from various subjects they have been learning. Mrs. Gascho assigned small groups of three or four a country and gave them a paper snake. She assigned them the project of creating a home that fits the needs of their snake and the culture of the country they were assigned.
“The main point was for them to use what they were learning — area, volume, and world geography –, as well as strengthening their skills in research, writing, and planning.” Mrs. Gascho explained.
The four students assigned to Peru explained how they researched their country, looking at architecture, weather, and climate and use that knowledge to build their home. They had to “brain dump” any creative ideas to build their homes and sketch it out. Many of the ideas they sketched on their “brain dump” translated into their finished products. After getting these creative juices flowing, they then turned to the more logical side of the project. The students carefully mapped and measured out their building plans before they started on the crafting part.
Each of the houses was unique. The New Zealand house had a cozy loft; the Peru house followed Peruvian stone architecture; the Australian house was set on the beach with special adaptations to protect it from hurricanes. Even the Canada house had a special bar for the snake to work out on, “like a treadmill” says Sienna Kauffman.
Each group faced its own triumphs and challenges. The Canada group said that they had to “compromise when working together and building it.” New Zealand repainted their house three times with three different colors!
The students’ excitement and pride was evident when they explained their creations to students from other classes who came by grade-level to see, listen and touch each project. Anyone in the room could see the interest of the younger students and the pride on the faces of the fifth graders. Each student had a story to tell me, and they all got excited that they were getting reported on. All the students greatly enjoyed the project, got to get closer to their classmates, and many are extremely proud of the work they produced.
Author Emma Myers, of Harrisonburg, is a member of the class of 2021 who anticipates pursuing studies in political science and journalism in the future.