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River Book

School: Open World Learning

City/State: St. Paul, MN

Grade(s): 8

Format(s): Book

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

Project Overview

Eighth-grade students at Open World Learning Community (OWL) in Saint Paul, Minnesota created this publication as part of a yearlong expedition focusing on the Mississippi River. OWL is located within a mile of the Mississippi River, yet many students do not fully comprehend the social, cultural, and economic impact this river has on St. Paul, Minnesota, and the United States.

The expedition began with a multi-day trip to the river’s headwaters at Lake Itasca in Northern Minnesota and included additional trips to local fieldwork sites, ranging from Fort Snelling to Indian Mounds Park. At each of these sites, the students collaborated with experts from the National Parks Service,  the organization Friends of the Mississippi River, and other members of the local community. These experts provided students with a rich background of the history, geography, and science, which helped students understand the true significance of each location.

Back in the classroom, students experimented with a variety of types of writing about the river, including historical fiction, feature writing, and descriptive writing. Each student then focused on a specific piece to work on for the publication. With help from peers and instructors on critique and
revision, students focused on the attributes of high quality to prepare their pieces for publication. 

One team of students coordinated the design and arranged the writing -- from north to south -- in a magazine format. Additionally, students worked with the art teacher to develop skills around drawing and sketching of natural objects and landscapes. These drawings, along with photography from the field, helped to highlight each fieldwork location and the writing that accompanied it.

The final publication was shared with the public National Parks Service as part of their 100-year anniversary celebration.


How This Project Can Be Useful

  • The individual entries vary in type, style, and amount of information, which allows students to contribute at different levels as well as allowing for student voice to shine through
  • Provides a means for students to investigate a topic while working towards the publication of a useful and needed resource
  • Thoughtful combination of digital photography, student illustrations, and written information
  • Highlights an investigation of the environment in close proximity to the school

Additional Standards

  • Write informative/explanatory texts to examine a topic and convey ideas, concepts, and information through the selection, organization, and analysis of relevant content.
  • Write narratives and other creative texts to develop real or imagined experiences or events using effective technique, relevant descriptive details, and well-structured event sequences.
  • With some guidance and support from peers and adults, use a writing process to develop and strengthen writing as needed by planning, drafting, revising, editing, rewriting, or trying a new approach, focusing on how well purpose and audience have b
  • Use technology, including the Internet, to produce and publish writing and present the relationships between information and ideas efficiently as well as to interact and collaborate with others.
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