Exploring their world
Sixth-grade students from Northwestern Lehigh Middle School’s Team Explorers were in for a globe-trotting adventure recently as they participated in the “Explore Your World with Compass Travels” project display event.
Inside the school library, dozens of colorful presentations created by the Explorer students, classmates and library staff were on display, showcasing more than two dozen countries across six continents.
Librarian Jillian Gasper and Library Assistant Michelle Herman dressed for the occasion as a pilot and tourist, respectively.
They provided students with a preflight briefing and distributed brochures to be completed by visiting a country from each continent and recording an interesting fact.
Gasper said the “Explore Your World” display served as the apex of an extended interdisciplinary research project, which students have worked on since September 2019.
“What you see today is the culmination of their months and months of hard work,” Gasper said.
Each student selected a country and researched the terrain, geography, population of major cities, weather and climate, and a unique cultural element.
Many also learned to say or write “hello” or “welcome” in their country’s native language.
This information was then creatively organized into a poster, trifold, Google Slides or Flipgrid presentation and put on display for peers to learn from and enjoy.
Asked about their personal reflections of “Explore Your World with Compass Travels,” students said they enjoyed numerous aspects of the research and display processes.
Some said that learning about the lives and traditions of a country’s people was their most memorable experience.
“I liked researching the culture and putting it all together,” Roree Velazquez said about her research of Poland.
While scrolling through a video about Russia, Egan Boyle said that the most interesting part of a nation’s culture to him was the cuisine.
“I really liked to learn what kind of food they eat,” he said, noting that a popular snack in his research country of Israel is fried chickpeas.
Others found an interest in the more statistical and scientific aspects of the research.
“I liked finding out the population and the largest cities; that was really cool” Lizzie Sanchez said about discovering the population density of Mexico, while fellow Explorer student Carter McCown said he was most intrigued by the climate and terrain of Jamaica.
Jayden Billig said his favorite part of the project was the overall creative freedom.
“We got to do it on our own; we got to choose the country and what we did to show it off, in a poster, a slide presentation or a Flipgrid,” he said while showcasing his presentation on Ireland to friends.
After touring the library and filling out their brochures, students gathered for a debriefing session with social studies teacher Maureen Roman to discuss the lessons learned from carrying out their first large-scale research projects.
“Other than learning the facts about the nation you researched, what else did you learn while doing this project, what did you take away from all this?” Roman asked.
The young Explorers noted the importance of asking questions, finding reputable information, learning time management skills and avoiding procrastination.
Students also said they learned how to organize and arrange their final projects to best showcase their work.
Roman explained how this project would form the foundation upon which students would build good research and critical thinking skills for both academia and life, and she praised the students’ effort, dedication and creativity in creating the “Explore Your World” exhibits.
“Mrs. Gasper and I, and all the other Explorer teachers are very, very proud of all the work you’ve done,” Roman said as students gave a hearty round of applause.
Gasper told The Press that Team Explorer teachers came up with the idea for an interdisciplinary study unit centered on the cultures of the world, the focus of the team’s social studies curriculum, at the beginning of the school year.
She noted how the project drew teaching points from all aspects of the students’ core subjects, from social studies and science to language arts and mathematics, and also developed additional skills in collaboration, creativity and communication.
After seeing the success and student enthusiasm for “Explore Your World with Compass Travels,” Gasper and Herman said they look forward to more innovative and creative school projects in the future.
“It all came together in the end, and it’s just been really fun,” Gasper said.
“It’s neat to see the kids work on this and be passionate about these projects, and I think the other students really appreciate it,” Herman said.