Twenty Days of Home School Social Studies Curriculum (for Middle or High School)

Well, hello there.

Like most of you, I’ve suddenly found myself teaching online social studies classes. Good thing there’s a whole library of free lessons at Openendedsocialstudies.org, just ready and waiting to support your middle and high school world and US history needs. Please browse and share widely in your social circles.

Here’s a look at some lessons my own home-bound students will see in the twilight days of this school year, preempted so abruptly by our national quarantine.  We’re trying to keep it light, airy, and most of all relevant.

Most to the point, we’re trying to teach these kids something about how to be a good, well-rounded person.  Wasn’t that why you got into this business in the first place?

So, get your kids away from the computer screen as much as possible – that is where they’re going to be for math and ELA.

Everything below is written to apply to the town where I teach, but can easily be adapted to your hometown.

Good luck and be good to each other.

Tom,
Founder, Openendsocialstudies.org


Day 1 – Map Your World

Make a hand drawn map of your home and your yard (if you have one.) Use a measuring tape (or improvise one if you don’t have a measuring tape.)

Your map should be to scale – 1 inch equals 5 feet. Include and label all rooms, windows, doors, and major trees and landscaping. Also include a compass rose and a key, if necessary.
Scan/take a photo of your map.

Day 2 – Plant Life

Pick a tree or plant in your yard. If you’re in an apartment, that’s ok – pick a plant/tree around your building.

Figure out what it is and write a brief report (in your own words, approximately one paragraph). Address questions about: the conditions under which it thrives, its relationship to humans (do we use it or its fruit or leaves for anything, or is it just for decoration), whether it is native to our state, whether your family planted it or it was growing there when you moved in.

You’ve got to be a detective for this one – describe the plant in Google image search, ask an adult who might know what it is, or download a leaf identification app on your phone (there are lots of free ones).

Day 3 – Ask an Adult

Ask an adult to tell you about the neighborhood they lived in when they were your age. Think of at least two related follow up questions. Document the answers in interview format – like this:

Student: Mr. Kenning, what am I supposed to do again?

Mr. Kenning: Interview an adult?

Student: Wait, what?

Mr. Kenning: Ask an adult some questions about the neighborhood they lived in when they were your age!

Student: That’s all?

Mr. Kenning: That’s all!

Day 4 – Read This

Read the following quote and respond to it in a five to eight sentence paragraph:
“Adults, in their dealing with children, are insane, and children know it too. Adults lay down rules they would not think of following, speak truths they do not believe. And yet they expect children to obey the rules, believe the truths, and admire and respect their parents for this nonsense. Children must be very wise and secret to tolerate adults at all. And the greatest nonsense of all that adults expect children to believe is that people learn by experience. No greater lie was ever revered. And its falseness is immediately discerned by children since their parents obviously have not learned anything by experience. Far from learning, adults simply become set in a maze of prejudices and dreams and sets of rules whose origins they do not know and would not dare inspect for fear the whole structure might topple over on them. I think children instinctively know this. Intelligent children learn to conceal their knowledge and keep free of this howling mania.”
― John Steinbeck, The Log from the Sea of Cortez

Day 5 – Dig a Hole

1.Find an out of the way space. Dig a hole at around a foot in depth. To provide a sense of scale, take a picture of your hole with a ruler or some other object in it.
2. Answer the following survey on your own sheet of paper:
Name:
Age:
Grade:
Teacher Who Made Me Do This and Their Email Address:
Best Friends:
Favorite Food:
Favorite Music:
What’s Going on in the World Right Now:
Advice to My Future Self:
3. Place you answers in a carefully sealed Ziploc bag, along with anything else you might want to bury in your time capsule.
4. Throw it in the hole, cover the hole, and dig it all up on April 1st in the year 2025 (or, before you move from your current house – whichever comes first).  Write me a note when you do, and let me know how you’re doing!
Try to go easy on the grass – if you must dig through grass, you can usually cut a piece by getting your shovel up underneath it and levering it up.  You can then replace it when you are done by dropping it back into place.  If you are totally not allowed to dig, place this under a big rock, a paving stone, or somewhere else hidden.

Day 6 – Estimate your Impact

Use this tool – https://ei.lehigh.edu/learners/cc/carboncalc.html – to estimate your carbon footprint. Answer each in a short paragraph, in your own words:
  1. Summarize the “Analysis” tab – what are your biggest impacts?
  2. Were there any sources of carbon that you hadn’t considered before taking this survey?
  3. Is there anything you could reasonably do to lessen your impact?

Day 7 – Eat a Piece of Fruit

Find a piece of fruit in your house. If you don’t have any, find something fruit flavored. Write a brief report on that piece of fruit, including information about its history and where it is cultivated.

Day 8 – Public Records

Look up your home’s tax/historic information. If you live in Pinellas County, you can find it here: https://www.pcpao.org/searchbyAddress.php
Answer the following questions:
1. In what year was your home built?
2. What is the “Land Size” of your property?
3. How many sales are recorded for your home/when were they?
4. How has the value of your home changed over time?

Day 9 – Ask an Adult

Ask your adult to show you some photographs of his or her self when they were your age. Ask them three questions inspired by the photo. Record/document the answers in interview format.

Day 10 – Smoke Detectors

Find all the smoke detectors in your home. Get up on a chair and press the test button.  They should make a loud noise.  If they don’t, you need new batteries.  You’re welcome. Send a photo of yourself up on the chair.

Day 11 – Record a Podcast

Using your phone or computer, record a short podcast (minimum two minutes) – on the theme “What is my life like while I’m stuck at home because of the Coronavirus?”

Day 12 – Make a Meal

Make or help to make breakfast, lunch, or dinner today for the members of your family. Submit a selfie of you in the kitchen/doing the work.

Day 13 – Native America

What Native American group occupied the land where you live now?  Figure it out, give me a paragraph about them, and tell where I could can go to see some of their artifacts or the ruins of their towns.

Day 14 – Your Public Purpose

Read this article about the Californios Verdes – https://openendedsocialstudies.org/2019/04/19/californios-verdes-and-your-public-purpose-project/. The assignment at the end asks you to create a year long project. You don’t actually have to do this assignment – but if you DID have to do it, what kind of project would you take on?  Describe it and why it is important to you in a five to eight sentence paragraph.

Day 15 – Sketch

Find something outside and sketch it. Your artwork doesn’t have to be “good” – but it must demonstrate effort. This shouldn’t take less than five minutes.  Take a photo of yourself holding your sketch and upload it.

Day 16 – Your Officials

Who is your mayor?  What is one thing he has done for the city? Who is your deputy mayor?  Where is city hall?

Day 17 – In the Shade

Find a shady spot outside and read a book there for at least ten minutes.  Take a selfie in your spot, with your book, and submit it.

Day 18 – Your Parks

Use Google Maps to help you pick a park or nature preserve. Write a one paragraph history of that place OR, if applicable, a one paragraph biography  of the person it is named after.

Day 19 – Read This

 Read the following quote and respond to it in a five to eight sentence paragraph:
 ‘We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful about what we pretend to be.’

Day 20 – Surprise

Surprise me with your own act of creativity or whimsy – a hobby, a piece of art, an act of kindness, etc.  It can be anything.  Tell me about it/share a photo of it here, and tell me why you are proud of this thing.

A Eulogy for Andrew Jackson

This lesson can be used with The United States: An Open Ended History, a free online textbook.  Adapted in part from open sources.

smithsonian2Pretend that it is June 8, 1845 – former President Andrew Jackson (1829-1837) has just kicked the old hickory bucket.  You’ve been tasked with writing a eulogy – a funeral speech – for Andrew Jackson.  Nowadays, speakers tend to be pretty polite in eulogies, but back then, people weren’t afraid to speak ill of the dead.  Even Andrew Jackson’s pet parrot, Polly, had to be ejected from his funeral for swearing.  No joke.

Your speech should follow the basic format of a standard, five-paragraph persuasive essay. It should include a hook to grab listeners’ attention, followed by a clear statement of your thesis – was Andrew Jackson a great president or one of the worst? The body should use the facts of his career to support your position. You should them summarize your judgement in your concluding statement.

Make sure to address the significance of (1) annexation of Florida from Spain, (2) the Trail of Tears, (3) the Nullification Crisis in South Carolina, and (4) one other life event of your choosing.  Your job is to explain these key accomplishments of his career – and why they are/were controversial.  You must then summarize your position – is this man one of our greatest presidents, worthy of bronze statues and twenty dollar bills, or one of our worst, worthy of quiet obscurity?

As a starting point for your research, you can use:

  1. Andrew Jackson, For and Against the Common Man

The end result should be a short (3-5 minute) funeral oration addressing the above topics using specific facts and figures to advance your argument – to be recited aloud to stirring effect!  Feel free to include period appropriate curse words to make your point, as a tribute to his parrot.

Build Your Own American System

This lesson can be used with The United States: An Open Ended History, a free online textbook.  Adapted in part from open sources.

The American System was an economic plan that played an important role in American policy during the first half of the 19th century. Rooted in the “American School” ideas of Alexander Hamilton, the plan “consisted of three mutually reinforcing parts: a tariff to protect and promote American industry; a national bank to foster commerce; and federal subsidies for roads, canals, and other ‘internal improvements’ to develop profitable markets for agriculture.” Congressman Henry Clay was the plan’s foremost proponent and the first to refer to it as the “American System.”

state outlines Fresh United States America USA Free Maps Blank In Us Map State
Right click to download.

Use this map to plan infrastructure improvements to 19th Century United States.  Link different regions to improve economic connections between different regions – remember, you have to sell your plan to Congress, so you need to make it profitable to as many states as possible in order to secure their votes.

Label:

  • the borders of the United States circa 1840
  • The most important big cities circa 1840: New York, Chicago, St. Louis, Boston, Atlanta, Baltimore, Washington, DC, Philadelphia, Charleston, New Orleans, Cleveland, Detroit, Indianapolis, Jacksonville, Pittsburgh
  • The rivers: Mississippi, Ohio, Missouri, Potomac
  • The mountain ranges
  • The Great Lakes (by name)
  • Proposals for the routes of at least three canals linking various regions (naming at least one commodity that will travel in each direction – find out what resources/products come from the cities you’re linking)
  • Proposals for the routes of at least three railroads linking various regions (name the commodities)
  • Proposals for the routes of three toll roads (name the commodities)
products before the civil war

The Bottom Line

  1. Compare and Contrast: Consider factors like cost, weather, topography, efficiency — what are the relative advantages and disadvantages of toll roads, railroads, and canals?
  2. Why is it important for the government to invest in these kinds of infrastructure?  In what ways does it impact your daily life?
  3. We often refer to the United States as a capitalistic country, successful because the government’s lack of intervention in the economy.  Does the existence of the American System support or refute this label?

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