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Grade 7: From Denver to D.C. - A Week of Virtual Immersion & Reflection

Although class trips may look and feel different this year, Graland students, faculty, and staff, never stop seeking out innovative opportunities to explore the world around them.

Each year, the seventh grade class looks forward to traveling to Washington, D.C., to learn about the U.S. government, democracy, and the ways in which they can play an active role as citizens. 

This year, however, Associate Director of Programs Nanette Newman and the Grade 7 team had to get creative on how to provide this critical learning opportunity for their students.
"Our trips program at Graland serves to provide students with hands-on experiences. It is important for us to bring the curriculum that we teach in the classroom to life for our students," Mrs. Newman said. 

For this reason, Graland Country Day School partnered with the World Leadership School from April 19-23 for a project-based learning program intended to virtually immerse students in the lessons and rich history that our nation's capital has to offer. 

Learning Opportunities & Outcomes

Based on their interests and personal action goals identified in the prior week’s Youth Purpose Summit, students chose one of four different tracks to immerse themselves in throughout the week. Each of the four themed tracks followed an immersive learning experience filled with virtual guest speakers, tours of important landmarks and thought provoking group exercises. Each theme also had a driving question to explore during their “journey” and students were given the opportunity to create a reflection project showing their learning and interpretation of that question. 

The four groups were Key Ingredients of Democracy, Movements of Mobilizing for Justice, Ideas Cast in Stone, and We the People. 

Key Ingredients of Democracy: 

Driving Question - How can we inform others about Americans' role in maintaining our democracy?

In this group, students explored the history behind the three branches of government. They examined how they were intended to function as laid out by the Constitution and how they realistically function in today's current political climate. As part of this study, students were also able to virtually explore the buildings that house each of the three branches. 

Movements of Mobilizing for Justice: 

Driving Question - How can we investigate past and present movements as a way to take action and make our voices heard in our own community?

Throughout this experience, students investigated artifacts, stories, and historical documents to deeply feel and understand the complexities of social movements from the past. They then, through guest speakers, built connections with activists, artists, poets, and environmental, homeless, and immigration advocates of the present across the United States. 

Ideas Cast in Stone:

Driving Question - How can we commemorate and celebrate the stories of our country, communities, and lives while honoring all voices and perspectives?

Throughout this immersion, students examined the criteria for something or someone to be memorialized. They not only studied the human psyche when it comes to the values placed on commemorating an object, human, and tradition but also interviewed a sculptor to discover the criteria they use when asked to commemorate something or someone. 

We the People:

Driving Question - How have marginalized groups contributed to the development and advancement of our nation despite systems of oppression put in place by our nation's government?

In this group, students learned how to recognize the non-emphasized stories of the United States. Students in this immersion investigated the different ways that policies and laws created by our national government have worked to benefit some groups while oppressing others. 

Creative Deliverables & Celebration of Learning

While each morning provided in-depth knowledge and experiences, each afternoon allowed students time to reflect and express what they learned through the creation of a deliverable. 

Several Grade 7 students chose to write a poem or record a podcast, while others showcased their passion through art, a web page, collage, journal entries, and more.

Seventh grader Olivia chose to make a graphic novel, while classmate Hallie S. organized a TedTalk.

“I chose to write a graphic novel on the perspective of a Native American girl. I chose this so I could have creative control of the pictures, and tell the real story, based on facts,” Olivia said. 

"For my deliverable, I chose to do a TedTalk. I researched the three branches of government: what they do, how they work. I also learned about checks and balances, which is how each branch of government stays equal so that one can't overpower the others," Hallie said. 

Others, such as Grade 7 students Barrett H. and Bodhi M. decided to create 3D replicas of buildings they explored during their virtual tour.

"I decided to design a 3D print of the United States Capitol, the Supreme Court Building, the White House, and the Washington Monument. I chose this because it interests me, and I enjoy designing. I am also researching different facts to include in my presentation," Barrett said.

"I chose to make mini replicas of important buildings in Washington, D.C. out of cardboard and other materials. I like to create things and chose to do my project physically instead of digitally because I like to work with my hands," Bodhi said. 

Upon completing the entire immersion experience, the students were then able to come together on Friday for the Celebration of Learning. At the celebration, students from various focus groups were able to showcase their projects and share what the experience meant to them.

Here are just a few of the experiences that the seventh-grade students shared…

"This experience is important because if you don't learn these things, then you'll never really know about history, and when you don't know your history, you can't learn from the mistakes that were made." 
- Hashem L.

"Students need to know that there is still a lot of oppression in this country, and we need to learn how to all be better humans." 
- Jack G. 

Despite the challenges this year has brought, students and teachers alike at Graland are committed and continue to find creative ways to "climb every mountain" one immersion experience at a time. 


Graland Country Day School

Graland Country Day School is a private school in Denver, Colorado, serving students in preschool, kindergarten, elementary, and middle school. Founded in Denver in 1924, Graland incorporates a rich, experiential learning approach in a traditional classroom setting, emphasizing the development of globally and socially conscious leaders who excel academically.