This year I decided to get organized. Since my dual enrollment US History class is officially both a college and high school class it follows a traditional every other day college format – HIS201 first semester and HIS 202 in second semester. This year I decided to get through the Progressive Era (1900ish) in semester 1 because I always end up cramming everything from Civil Rights through present day into about 3 hours. Amazingly I accomplished the goal! Not so surprising though was that I didn’t plan enough time for project based learning in the first half.  My students did a lot of skills mastery along with that content acquisition though so I modified my 2nd half plan to give students some opportunities to use those skills.

Enter the ROGUE MISSION! Part of my class storyline is that students are part of an underground group of historians trying to create public history. (By the way, I just learned that Stalin considered Historians “dangerous men”… definitely using that next year.) in the narrative though the leadership has been distracted, so the rest of the collective has de ideas to go Rogue and create their own public missions. 

In practical terms this is a ‘choose your own adventure’ project. I wanted to give students an insane amount of choice for this project. We have a learning contract which students complete and we both sign off on but the students determine:

  1. The topic of the project
  2. To work independently or in a group
  3. Team members (up to 3)
  4. The final product of the work
  5. The XP value of the final product
  6. Scheduled formal ‘check in dates’ by the teacher 
  7. How and when the product will be made ‘public

Choice is important for engagement as is collaboration opportunities. Also, each of the products is a research based product using the historian’s skills gained during first semester. But too much freedom can be paralyzing and creativity sometimes needs limitations in order to be unlocked. I placed the following restrictions on the development process. Projects must:

  1. be connected to the second semester curriculum
  2. have a definite due date
  3. must have an audience beyond my classroom walls

The students are currently in the second full week of the Rogue Missions and I have been pleasantly surprised at the depth of the engagement, the creativity of the final goals, and the historic inquiry on display. My initial worry was that the final product goals would be generic – wevideo documentaries or weebly sites – but the students have come up with some interesting ideas. Here are some that I’m hoping come through:

  1. SC Statehouse Monuments – write a letter to the SC legislature explaining a more detailed history of a monument figure (currently research Pitchfork Ben Tillman and Strom Thurmond) and proposing an addition to existing structure.
  2. Freedom Riders Interactive Role Playing Game – currently researching social awareness games and digital options.
  3. Space Race Board Game
  4. iTunes Books – there are a slew of these ranging from children’s books about Women’s Rights and New Deal ABCs to a YA historic fiction about JFK.
  5. Interviewing Korean War Vets for the Library of Congress’ Veterans History Project
  6. Podcasting – two groups are creating podcast series. One on Civil Rights and one on military history.
  7. Holocaust Poetry and Art Book
  8. Mixed Media Art Gallery
  9. Graphic Design and Display at   Campus Art Gallery

There are many more to come.  The choice and collaboration seem to be more than engaging – it has moved into empowering. Students are taking their ideas to a level of depth and creativity that I wasn’t sure they would be able to reach. They are setting their own flow and not being afraid to fail forward. So far this has been a dream assignment for me!