The FWSU Story: BFA 8th Grade Students Build a Society

When BFA 8th grade students returned from February break, they were introduced to a new project designed by their teachers Ashley Barnes-Cota, Dana Hamm, Ben Psaros, and Melody Wilkins. The students were tasked with designing a country and the society within it. They were responsible for all aspects of their country including Health, Economy, Population, Peace and the Environment. They earned points in these areas as they completed the day’s activities and challenges. The goal was to achieve a balance between the five areas and obtain the most total points as a country.

After students chose their groups, they were randomly assigned an area on the globe for their country. During the first three days of the project, the teams decided on their country name, were given the size of their country to create a map, and used their population to create a population density map. They researched the plants, animals and resources of their country and determined their main export. At the end of the first week, the students created Mission statements that included UN Global Goals.

Sample Mission: Illyria is committed to preserving the health and wellness of our citizens, thus we are choosing the third Global Goal (good health and well being). Good health is important to Illyria because our people deserve the best care possible. Our medical supplies are of the highest quality and it is important that everyone in our community is taken care of.

After their countries were established, students were presented with challenges and opportunities each day for the second week. At the start of each day, the entire grade met to discuss the previous day’s work and check the current standings. Each day, the students were given a global challenge, an individual situation, and an opportunity to work through. Global challenges were world wide problems that each country had to focus on. They included immigration, unemployment, trade, and medical discoveries. The groups had to decide the best solution based upon their research, their countries values and mission, and the constraints of the scenario.

“I like the way it’s set up. We can do what we want at our own pace. We can design our country the way we want to.”

– Laurel C, student and resident of Lislorminex

Each team drew an individual challenge card each day and had to develop a solution or product. The individual challenges asked students to create a national holiday, an education system, a folk dance, or a historical moment in their country.

“We get to be creative. We picked our own groups and made our own choices. It’s kind of like a game, but it’s a lot of work every day. It’s different every day.”

– Jacob A, student and resident of the Allied Isles of Cocolandia

The final piece of each day’s mission was the opportunity card. Students had to choose whether they wanted to take advantage of the opportunity. If they did, they could gain points in a predetermined category, but also had to decide how the opportunity might benefit them in other areas and cause harm in others. For instance, if they chose to host the Wellness Games, they could earn 10 points for Health. They might gain in the Economy, but lose in the Environment. The teams had to decide where their points would be distributed and make a case for all of their decisions. The country that was selected as the site for the Wellness Games also earned bonus points for the day.

“Each challenge allowed us to adjust the situation to reflect our countries values. We got to show what was important in each category. We’ve worked together as a team and practiced our Transferable Skills. It’s great to have such a large chunk of time to work on this project.”

– Genevieve C, student and resident of Illyria

Overall, the students learned and grew over the course of the week in ways that are enhanced by projects like these. They communicated, collaborated, were self directed, and exhibited perseverance every day as they built the society of the future. Many thanks to the teachers for planning this project and to the 8th grade students for their dedicated work toward building a new world!

“Our team has been prioritizing flexible learning for a couple of years. One of the main goals of this project, which we began collaborating on last year, was to engage students in the five transferable skills and integrate their learning from all content areas. All the work we have done to set up the game and launch the tasks each day is the real work we did as teachers. Observing and facilitating the work while guiding students towards success has been the easy part of all this. Students strategized together while preparing a slide presentation. Their demonstrations of learning have been incredible! Students are clearly showing their understanding of biomes, climate, and sustainability; effects of real-world events on population and culture; calculating percents of increase and decrease, plus making and interpreting graphs; as well as research and writing. This has not only been a fun, creative learning process for the students, it’s been inspirational for the teachers. We’re excited to make more learning opportunities in the future that look like this.”

– Ashley Barnes-Cota, Dana Hamm, Ben Psaros, and Melody Wilkins, 8th Grade Teachers

John Tague is the Principal of BFA Fairfax Middle/High School and is a regular contributor to THE FWSU STORY. You can follow him @jtague252

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