Discovering the Genesee was created by third grade students from the Genesee Community Charter School in Rochester, New York, as part of a Learning Expedition on local history. It is an example of a natural and cultural field guide that was in part created to fill an existing gap in the resources available to students about the early history of Rochester.
Students gathered information for this book in many ways. First, they did several field studies, including visits to local museums (one of which was a “living history” museum), scientific data collection along the river, and a three-day trip on the river which started at the river’s source. Secondly, students spent considerable time with a diverse array of outside experts, more than fifteen in number, including historians, geologists, librarians, water scientists and photographers. Thirdly, students used text-based information from the internet, existing books and first-hand sources.
Student work was guided by four guiding questions, which became the chapters of their book: Who were the people of the Genesee Valley? Why did people come to live here? What was life like for the people who lived here? What is the science of the Genesee River?
Each student created a two-page entry for the book, containing written information, biographical information on the author, and photography and/or hand-drawn artwork.
Although the layout was done by students, teachers and parent volunteers, the actual printing and binding in the original print run was done commercially, funded by local business donations. The final product is a glue-bound book, approximately 8 by 6 inches. Subsequent printings of the book have been produced in-house by the school, using its publication equipment. This book, and many others like it, are available for purchase on the schools’ website.
A few years later, a 4th grade class built on this work and wrote a second volume, The Geology of the Genesee River Valley.
How This Project Can Be Useful
- The project exemplifies the process of in-depth field work – many types of research trips gathering different kinds of information
- The project exemplifies the process of working with outside experts and incorporating information gathered from multiple sources into one cohesive product
- Models a new type of field guide: a mixture of cultural and natural history content
- Shows the highly interdisciplinary nature of the students’ expedition
- Highlights individual student work within a larger collaborative class project
- Inviting product size and layout – good layout of text, artwork and student biographical information
- Writing shows in depth content knowledge and writing skills
- Shows the power of critique and revision. As the authors say at the end, “We wrote, revised, reflected, wrote, edited and wrote some more.”
- Showcases the power of professional production quality used for a student book
Common Core State Standards
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