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Complex City

School: High Tech High School

City/State: San Diego, CA

Grade(s): 12

Format(s): Book

Subject(s): English Language Arts

Project Overview

Twelfth grade English and Digital Arts students at High Tech High in San Diego, California created this book in the Fall of 2011 as part of a study on becoming more aware of their own surroundings in order to foster an educated, ethical, and empathetic community.

Students worked in pairs to research, interview, and investigate the city in a number of unique ways. By compiling and their work and creating collective and idiosyncratic maps of San Diego, they were able to challenge their own thinking and ideas about their environment and accept new knowledge from each other. They used Rebecca Solnit’s Infinite City as a model and created a series of maps of San Diego that present unique views to evoke different thoughts and questions. Each entry has its own corresponding map.

As a result of this project, students became more invested in their communities. They exhibited their digital maps in multiple venues and invited their communities to participate in this project of making San Diego into a complex city.  Students participated in several rounds of peer critique and writers’ workshops to ensure that the maps and essays presented their message cohesively. The final product is a 64-page hard-covered book with colorful illustrations. 

How This Project Can Be Useful

  • Excellent example of using maps to consider both historical and current local issues
  • The product is nicely formatted, with an attractive layout of text and graphics
  • Exemplifies exciting and engaging fieldwork
  • Maps are very detailed, demonstrating the power of multiple drafts
  • Highlights a type of project that is replicable in any city or town

Relevant Resources

Common Core State Standards

Standard Long Term Learning Target
  • I can write informative/explanatory texts that convey complex ideas and concepts clearly and accurately, using content that is carefully selected, organized, and analyzed.
  • I can produce clear and coherent writing appropriate to task, purpose and audience.
  • I can use the writing process to focus on what is most significant for a specific purpose and audience.
  • I can use technology to produce, publish, and update writing products in response to ongoing feedback, new arguments, and new information.
  • I can use correct capitalization, punctuation and spelling.
  • I can use resources to build my vocabulary.
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