Project: Comparing Cultures - Geography Project

Teacher: Milo Fortes
School: Trail Ridge Middle School
Location: Longmont, Colorado USA
Start Date: 10/20/2014
End Date: 05/20/2015
Project Plan
Unique Requests of
Participating Mentors:

Mentors are welcome from any area of expertise! Any mentors with a passion for travel or for understanding and examining different cultures are encouraged to participate.


No matter their location, school-aged children around the world live in a relative microcosm of culture, economy, and society. At Trail Ridge, and specifically in my 6th grade Social Studies class, I want students to be able to experience the life of an 11- or 12-year old in a different country. In this age of technology and advanced communication, there is no reason why our students shouldn’t understand and empathize with life outside of our town, our state, and our country. Our STEM-focused school emphasizes 21 Century Learning, critical thinking, creative problem- solving, and the design thinking process. In keeping with these areas of focus, this project will help students identify similarities and differences between their world and a foreign land (with respect to civics, economics, government, and geography), as well as define and potentially help solve issues that other families and students struggle with around the world.


Applicable 6th grade Social Studies Standards: GEOGRAPHY: 1. Use geographic tools to solve problems; 2. Human and physical systems vary & interact ECONOMICS: 1. Identify and analyze different economic systems; 2. Saving and investing are key contributors to financial well- being CIVICS: 1. Analyze the interconnected nature of the United States to other nations; Applicable 6th grade Language Arts Standards: 2.2 Organizing structure to understand and analyze factual information 3.2 Writing informational and persuasive genres for intended audiences and purposes require ideas, organization, and voice development 4.1 Individual and group research projects require obtaining information on a topic from a variety of sources and organizing it for presentation 4.2 Assumptions can be concealed, and require identification and evaluation 4.3 Monitoring the thinking of self and others is a disciplined way to maintain awareness. Applicable 6th grade Math Standards: Number Sense: 1.2 Formulate, represent, and use algorithms with positive rational numbers with flexibility, accuracy, and efficiency Patterns, Functions, and Algebraic Structures: 2.2 Variables are used to represent unknown quantities within equations and inequalities Data Analysis, Statistics & Probability: 3.1 Visual displays and summary statistics of one- variable data condense the information in data sets into usable knowledge Applicable 6th grade Science Standards: 3.1 Earth's natural resources provide the foundation for human society's physical needs. Many natural resources are nonrenewable on human timescales, while others can be renewed or recycled 3.5 Water on Earth is distributed and circulated through oceans, glaciers, rivers, groundwater, and the atmosphere 3.6 Weather is a result of complex interactions of Earth’s atmosphere, land and water, that are driven by energy from the sun, and can be predicted and described through complex models 3.7 Earth has a variety of climates defined by average temperature,precipitation, humidity, air pressure, and wind that have changed over time in a particular location Science & Technology 6th Grade Outcomes: 2. Examine how choices regarding the use of technology are influenced by constraints caused by various unavoidable factors (e.g., geographic location, limited resources, social, political and economic considerations). 3. Create a solution to a problem given more than two constraints (e.g. limits of cost and time for design and production, supply of materials and environmental effects). 4. Evaluate the overall effectiveness of a product design or solution.



Grade Level:


Content Area:

Social Studies (incorporating science, math, language arts, and writing)

Student Outcomes:

Students will empathize with international peers in their age group to gain a deeper understanding of another culture, while using data to analyze different aspects life in a foreign land, such as GDP, mortality rate, nutrition statistics, climate research, daily life, etc. After researching and learning about many aspects of a different culture (mainly civics, economics, & geography), students will do a design challenge in which they identify a need and solve a societal issue based on their region of study. Communication with experts in the field and with natives from their culture of choice will be helpful.

Evaluation of
Student Outcomes:

The goal of the project will be to do an in-depth analysis comparing life in the United States with that in another country in the Western hemisphere with a culminating project focusing on providing solutions to a real social issue of the student’s choice.

Teacher Role:

The teacher will facilitate engagement and help to focus student interest while researching and data collection. In addition, the teacher will provide guidance on data analysis, use of geographic tools (specifically through ArcGIS online), and cultural analysis using the United States as a common lens for the class while each student or student group will expand that learning to their country or region of choice. For example, the class may focus on the meaning of GDP and what impact that measure has on our lives in order for individual students to extrapolate that learning to their individual research in a different country and a different economy.

Mentor Role:

Mentors will provide guidance throughout student research, helping students to apply their learning from class to their individual research and project goals. Mentors will help students empathize with 11- 12 year olds in other countries by raising questions students may not have otherwise considered asking. Mentors will help students identify realistic issues/problems students can consider throughout the project. Mentors will provide resources for research and help students through any iterative writing processes required, as well as through iteration of their solutions to social issues as their final project.