Project-Approach to Literacy and Civic Engagement (PLACE) Project
PLACE is a second-grade Project Based Learning program that integrates social studies and content literacy. Led by principal investigators Dr. Nell Duke from the University of Michigan and Dr. Anne-Lise Halvorsen from Michigan State University, this partnership allowed for the scale-up of rigorous research to examine whether the project-based pedagogy helps teachers significantly narrow the achievement gap between low-income students and those in more affluent school communities.
Principal Investigator:Dr. Nell Duke from the University of Michigan and Dr. Anne-Lise Halvorsen from Michigan State University
Year of Funding:
The Project PLACE curriculum consists of four project-based units, designed for second-grade students. Each unit focuses on social studies and informational reading and writing. The projects in each unit were designed to address nearly all Michigan second-grade standards in social studies and many Common Core State Standards for informational reading and informational writing.
The first unit, Economics, teaches students economic concepts and content literacy skills. The ultimate goal of their project is to sell their own goods or services to their school community. Students begin by studying some key economics concepts, the resources needed to produce goods and services, the means of distributing goods/services, and the market for those goods or services. Through the unit’s writing experiences, students develop their knowledge of persuasive and informative/explanatory text.
In the second unit, Geography, each student creates their own brochure that includes a map of several student-selected human and natural characteristics of the local community. Through the study of their community, students learn about the geographical concepts of human and natural characteristics, the ways humans affect the natural environment, cultural diversity, movement, and urban/suburban/rural environments. During the course of the project, as students create a detailed map of their community, they also develop skills in map construction and map reading. Through developing the brochure, students develop their skills in reading informative/explanatory text and their skills in writing persuasive text.
In the third unit, History, each student creates a set of historical postcards about the local community that could be sold, displayed in the community, or given to community members. In the course of the project, students learn historical content and historical thinking skills by studying the following aspects of life in the history of their community. Students learn how to “do the work” of historians: how to create and interpret a timeline and how historians make sense of the past through the examination and analysis of sources. In doing so, students develop an understanding of point of view/perspective, and how point of view/perspective inﬂuences the ways in which people interpret events.
In the fourth unit, Civics and Government, students write a proposal to improve a local park or public space in ways that enhance its value for community members. Students create and deliver a persuasive multimedia presentation for a local governmental official. During the unit, students learn about the purposes of government and about the responsibilities of both citizens and the local government. They read informational texts about civic leaders and the responsibilities of the local government. Students develop their writing skills and their public speaking skills and expand their use of technology as a medium of research and communication. In summary, students learn through the project that—and how—they can play an active role in improving their local community.