Last Spring, Rindge Memorial School’s (RMS) third grade team integrated community connections with social studies’ standards creating a dynamic interest-driven research project. The team wanted to create consistent curriculum that would connect with students’ real life experience. The result was a six week unit featuring an extended learning opportunity (ELO) to prominent local destinations and interest-based research projects.
Students gained general knowledge of the local sites before conducting onsite research. The third grade team secured a grant from the Jaffrey-Rindge Educational Foundation to assure that the ELO was financially accessible to everyone. In a half-day trip, students visited Annette State Park, Poole Pond, Cathedral of Pines and toured Franklin Pierce University. While visiting these sites, students gathered facts and drew pictures of their surroundings. Following the trip, third graders researched sites they found inspiring. Students gathered facts and resources to draft their interest-based reports. The unit, designed to be community-connected, also combined mapping and economics through the student creation of placemats featuring local economic sections of town. The placemats were distributed to local businesses.
One unplanned benefit of the ELO occurred while students were touring Franklin Pierce University. “When we were at Franklin Pierce, students were so inspired that they could foresee going to college. [Referring to their tour guide…] Students got to see someone who was on full scholarship and you could see faces light up because they did not realize college was an option.”
The third grade team is planning a similar unit for this year. They would like to expand the amount of time students are participating in onsite research because it is an inspiring and engaging component of the curriculum. Students spent one and a half hours at the Cathedral of Pines and it could be easily extended into a full day study. The student-created placemats were also an engaging component of the unit. This year, the team would like to be able to print and distribute more placemats to community businesses.