Look At All This Muck!

Last year I had my Woodlake students complete a DBQ regarding Progressivism, where they had to argue which 20th century issue they would invest their million dollars into. As always, I had students finish significantly earlier than others so I quickly threw together another project where they had to create a poster describing a current issue that they felt needed attention. This was meant to keep the early finishers occupied, but turned into a project that the students became excited about:
Ebola by Mikayla Juvera

New iPhone Concerns by Ramiro Padilla

North Korea by Henry Pfaff
Unfortunately, because of pacing and an upcoming benchmark, we couldn't invest much time into the project, but I wished that one day I could do this project on a big scale. Then a year later, my wish was granted when I was offered my dream job at Minarets High School, a school dedicated to project-based learning. I knew immediately that one of my projects would be focused on muckraking current issues, but before I even began the project, I cleared it with the principal; there was a potential for some serious and controversial issues to come to light and I wanted to ensure I had his support.

With this project, the driving questions was: How can we as muckrakers inform the public of modern dysfunctions in our society? We started the unit by discussing muckrakers' and their history since the 20th century. Students participated in a Pear Deck regarding Muckrakers and learned ways muckrakers exposed the corruption and 'muck' of their own society. 

Students were then divided into groups to analyze various historical examples of muckrakers' work, found here. They read and analyzed their document and created a presentation using a provided template. Each student was randomly assigned a slide and then one of them was selected to present their findings to the class. Here are some of the exemplars: How the Other Half Lives and Silent Spring.

From there, we did a Pear Deck analyzing the strengths and weaknesses of various PSAs, since this would be the most effective way of getting information out to this current generation. Students then selected their topics, which I emphasized needed to be a local issue whether at Minarets or one of the nearby communities (O'Neals, YLP, Madera, Coarsegold, Fresno, Clovis, etc.). Once they selected their individual topics, they then presented why their topic was significant to the class to ensure that they understood and researched their topics. Examples: Drug Busts in Coarsegold and Teacher Favoritism

During their presentations, they helped each other brainstorm solutions to their 'muck' using a form. Then began planning for their PSA, created a storyboard, and brainstormed ways they could reach out to their specific audience. 

Throughout this process, we reviewed etiquette and expectations for journalism; the Boy Meets World episode where they get the janitor fired was very helpful. We also went over the significance of the freedom of the Press with John Green's Crash Course video:

Students also selected a muckraking documentary to watch in class titled Hot Coffee, which brought light to the issue of tort reform using the famous McDonald's 'hot coffee' as the launching point.

Their final PSAs were then debuted in class and, needless to say, I was incredibly impressed with my students' work:

As always, I have ideas to improve for next year, including keeping students accountable and engaged throughout the entire process; many did not take the PSA aspect of the project as seriously as they took the presentation. Maybe I made the process too long, but I wanted to be sure to break up the project and cover all necessary aspects. I would have also liked to get more of these projects shared more. Many were shared with Minarets students, teachers, and on social media, but I would have like to push more out to local newspapers and agencies, but timing and my lack of connections made it difficult.

Yet, I'm so happy that I was given to opportunity to execute my original idea that I had in Woodlake and how passionate and excited my students were to bring change to our local community. There were also some students who were previously disengaged in the class, who then became more active and involved during/after this project.


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