Few, if any, projects that a Missouri teacher assigned to her seventh-grade social studies students packed as much punch as one involving heritage. Beth Reynolds' students heard excerpts read from Alex Haley's Roots, and they studied three cultural groups that influenced the United States: West Africans, Native Americans, and Renaissance Europeans. She also wanted her students to learn how immediate families and communities can affect what we know, believe, and do. So Ms. Reynolds asked her students to interview their parents to find out what three things they most wanted their children to know about life and why.
The results of this assignments, Ms. Reynolds says, "were beautiful--it gave parents and kids a time to get together and talk." Some parents composed letters to their children describing what they valued most—things like believing in oneself, doing one's best, having close family relationships, getting along with others, protecting the environment, and believing in God. The assignment, Ms. Reynolds says, is one many of her students will not forget.