Thematic studies are designed for interdisciplinary immersion in an age-appropriate, high-interest topic. Students acquire and employ skills in a wide range of disciplines and have many opportunities to extend and enrich their learning through open-ended exercises.
4-5 students were recently immersed in the thematic study of the westward movement of people in the mid-to-late 1800s. Students learned about the Native Americans who lived out west (and the impact that settler movement had on those communities), about our country’s geography and landmarks, and the ecosystems of the West. Using historical fiction novels, students learned about the culture of the time period and grappled with the real-life questions of the time. “What does it mean to make a new beginning? What are the challenges that people face when leaving the familiar and moving to the unknown?” Geography, history, reading, writing, physical education, art, technology, and physical and social sciences were all incorporated in the experience.
Students focused on elements of myths, study the artwork and storytelling of Paul Gobel, a writer and illustrator of children’s books (particularly Native American stories), and created their own interactive myths by writing, using watercolor, and narrating with Puppet Pals.
Student board games revealed all that the students had learned about the animals of the West. After researching their animals, they employed the design process, coded using the program 3DC, and employed a 3D printer to create playing pieces for the games.
In PE, students learned about the history of folk dancing. They shared newly acquired square-and-line dancing skills with parents at the family Barn Dance.
Students learned why people moved across the country and created their own replica of a covered wagon, learning about the simple machines of the time.
Students learned about the many groups of indigenous people living in the West during this time period and the historical impact the migration of people had on this community.
Through their study of U.S. geography, students learned about the historical changing of borders and important landmarks from the trail. They used Minecraft to create their own renditions of monuments.
During Prairie Day, students crafted corn husk dolls, played games children had on the trail, took period photos in a wagon, and enjoyed food at the local canteen.