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If I Was A Country - Poems and Maps

School: ANSER Charter School

City/State: Garden City, ID

Grade(s): 7, 8

Format(s): Map, Poetry

Subject(s): English Language Arts, Social Studies, Visual Arts

Project Overview

In the course of a yearlong exploration of identity, students at Anser Charter School considered the geography and political history of Europe in order to frame an investigation into the causes and lasting effects of the Holocaust. Using the prompt: "If I Was a Country," students crafted a map and companion poem to express ideas about geography, politics, government and—most importantly—their own identity.

Through creative writing and art, students developed their understanding of basic geopolitical ideas while experimenting with figurative language and the vocabulary of geography. Students visualized interconnections between individual, group, and national identity as each defined the mark they hoped to make on the world.

Although this project provided an invigorating space for students to creatively explore social studies concepts, it also opened up conversations and reflections that enriched personal growth and relationships within crews. The opportunity to define personal beliefs and boundaries—as both a country and a human—provoked rich conversation and sharing about how we, like nations, often struggle to lift up what we claim as our own.

Our crews' poetry and art were shared publicly at our community Open House and Poetry Slam, as well as through the Wassmuth Center for Human Rights' Upstander Poetry Contest. The artwork was also installed in the junior high hallways throughout the year. The maps continued to open a space for students to connect, as they often gathered around the pieces, noting new details, curiosities, and similarities to their own identity. Through figurative language and the sweeping strokes of a paintbrush, many students began to map
their individual and community identity with "What do I stand for?" as their compass.

How This Project Can Be Useful

  • Supporting materials have been provided for educators
  • Excellent example of a project with depth and thought-provoking ideas for adolescents
  • Useful model for educators looking to connect writing with artwork

Relevant Resources

Common Core State Standards

Standard Long Term Learning Target
  • I can determine the meaning of discipline- specific words and phrases used in a primary or secondary source.
  • EL has not created long-term learning targets for WHST standards.
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