Middle school students at Millennium Charter Academy did all of that and also took time to create their own countries. Pam Braley, eighth grade English and history teacher, headed up the efforts of the First Three Days program which was designed to strengthen the school’s advisory program and teach the students about citizenship, a focus this year.
The advisory councils consist of students in a homeroom. The teacher of that homeroom serves as an advisor to those students throughout the year and the students return to the room periodically. By having students report to the advisory councils each afternoon during the first three days of school and work together towards a common goal, they were able to get to know each other.
“Our intent was to give advisors time to bond with their advisees and to allow each advisory to develop a group identity,” said Braley. “Also, by choosing activities centered around nation-building, we were setting up our year to center around the theme of citizenship.”
“We got to know other students,” said Nick Blackburn of the benefits of the experience. “Hopefully it got some of the kids interested in government who weren’t before.”
“It was a good way for the classes to bond and get to know each other,” said Elizabeth Campbell.
As part of the First Three Days, each advisory council was charged with the task of creating a new country. This included giving the country a name, a flag, crest or banner, laws, citizens with certain characteristics, a national sport and a pledge, creed or national anthem.
Each advisory council divided into groups to tackle one area of the assignment. They had one afternoon to work together to come up with some basic principles for their task before presenting them to the rest of the council the next afternoon. On Friday afternoon, the entire middle school came together to present their countries as well as try out their national sports.
One of the sixth grade councils came up with the country of SunClaria. For them, choosing a name was a daunting task. One of the teachers told them they should come up with a name that was strong and so they spent a great deal of time looking up Greek names for lions. However, that task soon failed and they landed on SunClaria.
Campbell, Blackburn and Laura Browne participated in creating a government for the country.
“We didn’t assign roles. We were a Congress I guess,” said Browne.
“We had quite a list of laws and a Constitution,” added Campbell.
The group also created the concept of having a president who could serve a 4-year term but could also be voted out after only two years.
A group of eighth graders, who had done a similar project in fifth grade, decided to use the name of their former country, Yedanavia, home of the buluffalo, a buffalo with wings. Peter Balogh, Will Campbell, Caleb Hobernicht and Luke Needham were in charge of creating the national sport, sockey, Sockey is a mix between soccer and hockey, the two favorite sports of the group members.
“We tried to combine soccer with hockey. It had four goals instead of two and you could throw the ball three times and take two steps. Then you had to put the ball on the ground and kick it at a goal,” said Will Campbell. “We thought it was going to be good but it didn’t really work.”
The boys thought that creating a national sport would be easy and fun. However, they quickly discovered it was a little more complicated than they originally thought, especially since they had to be able to teach the game to others.
“We thought that one was going to be easy,” said Balogh. “But we figured out it wasn’t the easiest job.”
Both the students and teachers felt the project was a success and they are eager to keep going with it throughout the year.
“It was a good ice breaker to get us all working together,” said Will.
This was also the first time the entire middle school has worked together on a project of this magnitude. It provided an opportunity for the different grade levels to make presentations in front of each other.
“The nations presentations provided my sixth graders the opportunity to flex their public speaking powers in front of their peers and elders. Though they found the task difficult, even intimidating, they will surely benefit from the experience and continue to grow in their skills of public speaking,” said Peter Schild, sixth and seventh grade English teacher.
“Not only did these activities meet our original goals, but also we achieved a wonderful by-product in giving each and every middle school child a voice. What courage it took for new sixth graders to speak in front of seventh and eighth graders, as well as faculty and administration,” said Braley.
Contact Morgan Wall at email@example.com or 719-1929.