From Sea to Sea

Version 3


    Unit Summary

    This is a two-part project in which students look at cities in their region and the importance of the cities as commercial and trade centers. In the first part, students take on the role of Chamber of Commerce employees to inform visitors about local communities. Using the guidance of a WebQuest, students research local cities and write informative brochures. For the second part of the project, students delve into the economics of trade and its impact on local communities. They collect data on trade and apply analysis skills to better understand the implications of trade. Students learn the basics of importing and exporting, and share their knowledge about trade by teaching lessons to other students.


    At a Glance

    • Grade Level: 3-5
    • Subjects: Social Studies, Mathematics, Language Arts
    • Topics: Communities, Global Awareness, Economics
    • Higher-Order Thinking Skills: Data Analysis, Decision Making
    • Key Learnings: Communities, International Trade, Report Writing, Organizing and Interpreting Information
    • Time Needed: 10 weeks, 90 minutes per week

    Things You Need




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    Windows 8*


    Curriculum-Framing Questions

    • Essential Questions
      How are we different from others?
    • Unit Questions
      How is trade important to our community?
      How does physical geography affect the economics of our region?
    • Content Questions
      What products do we import and export, and where do they come from and go?
      What modes of transportation are used for trading?


    Assessment Processes

    View how a variety of student-centered assessments are used in the From Sea to Sea Unit Plan. These assessments help students and teachers set goals; monitor student progress; provide feedback; assess thinking, processes, performances, and products; and reflect on learning throughout the learning cycle.


    Instructional Procedures

    Prior to Instruction

    This project is about commerce and trade. In advance of instruction, identify the major products that are grown or manufactured in your state or province, and select cities to study that are important commercial or trading hubs. This plan makes use of the Port of Seattle Sea-Air School Curriculum Guide*. You can likely find a similar curriculum to teach students about your area's commerce and economy.


    In the first part of the project, student teams study cities in their economic and geographic region. Perform the following tasks to prepare for the unit:

    • Create a WebQuest for your region to help students learn more about the area with features such as those shown in the Puget Sound WebQuest*. Include research sites students can safely use, such as: Fifty States* or Online Highways*.
    • Collect addresses for Chambers of Commerce for cities near you. One month before the project begins, have individual students write letters to the Chamber of Commerce for each city they will be researching. You may want students to use a letter template, or direct them to follow the hidden text prompts in the word document located on the WebQuest.
    • During Week 8 activities, your class will trade a box of local goods with a partner school. Prior to starting the project, set up a class exchange with a cooperating school through a matching service, such as the ePALS*.
    • During Week 9, your class will visit another school. Arrange for this visit in advance.


    Part One: Get to Know Our Region

    Week 1: Introduce the Project

    Use questioning to determine students' prior knowledge and understanding about trade in their city. Familiarize students with terms and concepts that arise during the project, and identify major cities in your region. Discuss the Essential Question, How are we different from others? Use the discussion from the questions and the Essential Question to create a large K-W-L chart (What I Know, What I Wonder, What I Learned) and a small one for students to record on. Brainstorm what students already know about exports and imports, transportation of goods, and concepts pertinent to the local region (for example, the Port of Seattle and the Pacific Rim). Record what students know (or think they know) on the large chart while students make notes on their own charts. Next, brainstorm what students would like to learn about those topics, and record their ideas in the Wonder column.


    Present the WebQuest* to introduce the project. Discuss project outcomes and the research process rubric. Explain that this rubric is for students to self-assess and for the teacher to assess individual research during the unit. Divide the class into heterogeneously grouped teams of three or four students.


    Review anticipated vocabulary and concepts (such as agriculture, boom, bust, census, citizen, climate, county, economy, employment, history, immigration, incorporation, industry, manufacturing, population, recreation, and tourism). Have students write definitions, make diagrams, and practice using the terms in different contexts. Early vocabulary development makes the upcoming research phase more successful.


    Have students collect comparative city data using the quick fact log (also located on the WebQuest). Model research processes for students, using your city as an example. Show them how they can research quick facts using a Boolean search on Google* or another search engine. For example, a search of combined terms, such as Kent Washington "square miles", gives fast results. Challenge students to find the most up-to-date information (look for "last updated" stamps on Web pages) and to confirm research results in multiple resources.

    Week 2: Conduct Research about the Region

    As information arrives from the various Chambers of Commerce, collect materials into separate boxes for each city. Examine the materials with the class, and demonstrate how to take notes from the Chamber correspondence using the note-taking guide. This helps students find ideas related to the Essential and Unit Questions posed at the beginning of the unit:

    • How are we different from others?
    • How is trade important to our community?
    • How does physical geography affect the economics of our region?


    Have student teams research using the Internet and their city boxes to complete the note-taking guides. Remind them to frequently check the research process rubric to self-assess their research strategies.


    Post a large map of the region and identify the cities students are studying. Have them complete maps of their own using a blank 8.5 x 14-inch region map. Have students locate the cities on their maps and draw in landmarks, such as bodies of water and mountains.

    Weeks 3 and 4: Focus on a City, Make a Brochure

    Student teams present what they learn about cities in informational brochures and teach each other about their cities. By creating brochures, tell students that they are discovering many things that distinguish one community from another.


    Explain to students that they are taking on the role of Chamber of Commerce employees and developing informative brochures to highlight one of the cities in the region.


    Demonstrate how to complete a brochure, supplying "quick fact" information students collected in the note-taking guide as well as history, places of interest, economy, recreation, a map, a representative picture, an appropriate city slogan, and sources. Go through the basic steps to create a brochure similar to the student sample brochure. Have students complete brochures in small groups, using the brochure checklist and rubric throughout the project to make sure that their work is organized, that the brochures are high quality work, and that they are working well together.


    Have teams present their cities to the class. Either make multiple copies of the brochures, or have students present digital versions using a projector. Invite other adults and encourage all to ask questions. Follow up with a discussion comparing the cities.

    Part Two: Trade and Economics

    Week 5: Learn About Commerce

    Tell the students that over the course of the next few weeks, they will be strengthening their understanding of the Essential Question, How are we different from others? and they will be looking more closely at the Unit Questions, How is trade important to our community? and How does physical geography affect the economics of our region?


    Introduce learning logs for recording and remembering key concepts as they arise during the project. For each concept or vocabulary term, have students write a teacher-provided definition and create an illustration. For example, if students begin with the term port, they might define it as, a place where ships bring products to unload (imports) and pick up products to take someplace else (exports). You might display pictures of a port using the Port of Seattle Web site* and have students refer to the pictures as they illustrate the port entries in their learning logs. (The next steps relate to container shipping. If you are a landlocked state, focus student attention on agriculture and manufacturing in their research cities, and track how products move in a similar manner.)


    Have students refer back to their regional maps and draw a line from their city to the ocean showing how a cargo ship would leave the region. Put a ship stamp at the end of the line. Have them make a key of products and show products and destinations on the map. When they have finished, add the maps to their scrapbook folders. At this time, you may want to look at ship schedules (such as Port of Seattle ship schedules*) to see when ships from around the world are traveling in and out of the port.


    In the next activity, students learn about container cargo and track one shipment as it travels to its destination. Introduce relevant vocabulary, such as cargo, container, container ship, crane, distribution center, railroad, terminal, and warehouse. Have the students write the definitions in their learning logs, and draw illustrations. Using a digital projector, introduce the Boomerang Box Web site*. Show students how they can track the Boomerang Box as it travels across the globe. Discuss the type of information they can gather about the Boomerang Box, including where it is going, how it is being transported, what is inside the container, the dates of the trip, and so on. Show students how to look at the updated map. Give ample time to explore the site.


    After students explore the Boomerang Box Web site, create a journey log to record the travel of the Boomerang Box. Provide each student with an electronic copy of the journey log spreadsheet template. Ask them to open it up and use the Save As option to save the file using their name or initials. On the first day, have students fill out the cells: date, location, contents, and company. Each day thereafter, ask them to track the Boomerang Box electronically by filling in the date and location, and then clicking Save. When the shipment reaches its final destination, have students refer back to their spreadsheet and plot each day's location on their own map.

    Week 6: Where Did It Come From? Where Did It Go?

    In these lessons, students learn about imports and exports, and focus on the following Unit Questions:

    • How is trade important to our community?
    • How does physical geography affect the economics of our region?


    To begin, have students write the following definition of import in their learning logs:

    Goods that are received from one place or country to be sold in another.


    Discuss familiar imports, and have students add an illustration of a common import, such as bananas or cars alongside the entry.


    Next, have students identify countries where common items are made. They can look at items in their desks and backpacks as well as at clothes and shoes. Have each student find labels on 10 items, and record where each item was made. Have students meet in groups of five to combine their data. Then, combine group data into a whole class data set, and together with the students, create a graph showing how many items came from each country. Discuss the chart and the dynamics of importing, such as labor costs and different laws about product processing in other countries. Discuss local companies that import and sell foreign products.


    Have students write the following definition of export in their learning logs:

    Goods that are made or grown in one place or country and shipped to another to be sold.


    Have students add an illustration showing local exports (such as apples and software).


    Display a products picture map for your state. Pass out a record sheet with regional headings. Have students write names of products that come from different regions on the T-chart.


    Discuss with students the differences between manufactured products, agriculture, and natural resources, such as timber. Have students use different colored markers to color-code products based on these three categories. Discuss the charts and local companies that export products.

    Week 7: Practice Trading

    In this lesson, students practice their trading skills by playing a game. The goal of the game is to end up with a complete set of school supplies.

    Prior to the lesson, collect a class set of each of the following items:

    • Paper clips
    • Rubber bands
    • Sticky notepads
    • Pencils
    • Glue sticks


    Give each student five of the same object (for instance, one student should have five paper clips, the next student should have five rubber bands, and so on).

    Tell students the object of the game is for each of them to trade what they have so they end up with a complete set of school supplies. Carry out the trading. Take note of the number of minutes this activity takes to complete, and record bargaining language you hear students use as they trade. The idea behind this activity is for the students to see what vocabulary and techniques they naturally use to get their full set of items. Intentionally leaving it up the students to develop their own "rules" for the simulation allows you to gather discussion points based on situations you saw occurring.


    When trading is done, share the language of trade that you heard and show students how long it took them to complete the trading. Discuss the activity, and talk about how supply and demand factor into trading.


    For example, Why did Suzy decide to give James TWO pencils for the ONE eraser? What would a country be willing to do if they were in real need of a certain item?

    Week 8: Send a Local Products Package

    Learn which countries are common trade partners for your state and choose a partner school accordingly. Agree with your partner school which goods will be traded. Items should be inexpensive and nonperishable. For agriculture items, send reproductions that you purchase or that students make themselves (such as waxed or papier-mâché apples). In advance of this lesson, create a bookmark template in a word processing or drawing program.


    Explain to students that they are going to do a real trade with a school in a country that is a trading partner with your state. You want to send items that represent exports from your state as well as bookmarks for each student.


    Create bookmarks that have a picture and biography of one student on one side, and a picture and information about a state product or company on the other side. Assign each student a company or product to research and write about on the bookmark. Supply information and guide students as they read, take notes, and create a rough draft. Have them share their drafts with one another and get advice before moving on to desktop publishing. Have students make drawings of company or product logos, and then scan them. (Do not copy from the Internet.) Take digital photos of each student. Place scanned images and digital photographs in a computer folder on a shared drive, CD-ROM, or floppy disk. Have students type from their bookmark drafts onto the bookmark templates and insert the pictures. When bookmarks are finished, print them in color, mount them onto stiff paper, and laminate.


    Send a letter asking parents or local businesses to donate state products.


    Assemble and send the following:

    • Letter of introduction (translated into the language of the receiving class, if possible)
    • State products
    • Products map showing where each item was manufactured or grown
    • Bookmarks
    • School pencils


    When the trade package arrives from the partner country, explore and discuss the items, what they are, where they came from within the country, and how they compare to items that students are accustomed to using. If possible, continue the communication with the partner class through e-mail.

    Week 9: Share What You Learned

    Make arrangements to visit a class of your same grade at another school to share what your students have learned. Also ask the school board if you might send representatives from the class to share the project at an upcoming meeting.


    Explain that in the final task and assessment for this project, student teams are going to prepare lessons to teach other students about imports and exports. Go over the presentation checklist and rubric, and explain individual and group assessment. Divide the class into four to six groups. Assign tasks and have students rotate so they share responsibilities of leader, recorder, and materials keeper. Give groups a week to prepare their lessons. Have like teams meet before they plan their entire lesson so they do not overlap or repeat content or activities. Each lesson should include an introduction, definitions, history, commerce, production and shipping of exports, and movement and dispersal of imports. The lessons should focus on how trade is important to the community and how the physical geography affects the economics of the region.


    Give groups access to materials for visual aids that support their lessons, including multimedia software, poster paper, maps, overheads, and various art materials. After groups develop scripts and visual aids, have them practice in their groups and then in front of the class. Use the presentation rubric to guide class feedback. Set a high standard for practices, and videotape and assess each presentation. Base your choice of the group that presents to the school board on the most polished presentation.


    Visit the neighbor school and present the lessons. Bring imported items from the partner country to display as well as items that are exported. Ask the hosting students to provide feedback. Back at school, review the feedback and watch a video of the presentations. Have students focus this time on the response from the audience.


    Have the group that was selected to present at the school board attend a regular meeting and present their lesson.

    Week 10: Tie It Together

    Discuss with students what insights they have gained from their projects in regards to the questions that they have been addressing:

    • How are we different from others?
    • How is trade important to our community?
    • How does physical geography affect the economics of our region?


    To wrap up the unit, have students revisit the K-W-L charts from the beginning of the project, make their work into keepsake scrapbooks, and visit a place integral to local trade.

    Discuss what students learned about imports and exports, transporting goods, and trading partners. Have students look at the W section of the chart and ask them, Did you learn what you wanted to learn during this unit? Have the students complete the third column of their K-W-L charts and return the charts to their scrapbook folders.


    Make covers for trade scrapbooks using a word processing or drawing software. Have students organize all their work and mount pages onto construction paper. Include presentation rubrics and pictures from the lessons. Bind the pages together to make books. When the books are complete, have students look through them and write reflections to the following questions:

    • What part of the book are you most proud of? Why?
    • What part of the book do you wish you had spent more time on?
    • What would you do differently if you were to redo one activity?
    • What did you like most about this unit?
    • If you were to summarize your book to someone, what would you say?


    If possible, arrange for a field trip to a place integral to trade, such as a factory, port, or distribution center.


    Prerequisite Skills

    • Basic computing
    • Desktop publishing
    • Internet research skills


    Differentiated Instruction

    Special Needs Student

    • Supply extra time for research
    • Get support from specialist educators, parents, or peer tutors
    • Provide visual aids
    • Provide support during tasks that require reading

    Gifted/Talented Student

    • Ask the student to take on leadership roles when working with groups
    • Have the student create an advertising campaign for a local product
    • Have the student research a trading partner and its economy, and report to the class

    Nonnative Speaker

    • Pair the student with a bilingual peer who has greater English fluency
    • Use visual aids
    • Allow extra time for work
    • Get support from specialists
    • Have the student research trade between the United States and their country of origin



    This project was created by Michelle Kam, Anne Martin, Tim Martin, and Jennie Mong, third- and fourth-grade teachers from Emerald Park Elementary School in Kent, Washington. Their project was featured in An Innovation Odyssey, a collection of stories of technology in the classroom, Story 263: From Sea to Sea. A team of teachers expanded the plan into the example you see here.

    Background: Odyssey Story from Washington, United States

    Students take on the role of Chamber of Commerce employees and develop informational brochures for a local city