We have four themes on the docket this year: Explorers, Cities, Identity, and Mythology.
For each unit of study, the first month will be spent in some formal excavation of the many definitions and angles of the theme. Thus far, Explorers has seen us looking at missions to Mars (fictional and actual), the Buddha under the Bo Tree, Richard Feynman looking at a flower, Wallace Stevens looking at a blackbird, disastrous treks across the Antarctic, mapmaking, Diana Nyad's swim, Vasco da Gama, Cheng Ho and the usual suspects from the Age of Exploration. We'll also be looking at the amazing tale of Etienne Brule, the first European to explore Michigan. He was sixteen years old when he set out west from Champlain's camp way up the St Lawrence.
Where have we found these (and other) fascinating angles? In the coursepack, entitled Explorers of the World, 140 toothsome pages of writing, from Grace Ogot to Bruce Catton to Homer to Sara Wheeler. When a new theme is introduced, a coursepack like this one will be handed out. All seventh and eighth graders will be expected to read the coursepack, cover to cover, over the course of the first month of the unit. (The Explorers collection should be finished by October 2.) At that point, when the kids have processed the theme from a number of different perspectives, I will meet with each student individually to make plans for Exhibitions.
Exhibitions will take place at the end of the theme unit. Each of the two lessons in the Exhibition will show the student's new knowledge about the theme. We will conduct our Explorers Exhibitions over the last week in October and first week in November.