Scribbled notebooks and laptops filled the tables of Mr. Balk’s World Studies class. Over the winter season, sixth graders studied various government structures, and they continue to revisit the concept of how governments impact their populations’ standards of living. Mr. Balk assigned projects in which students worked in groups or individually to research a country of their choosing. The lights were low as the projector illuminated slides of detailed information on the board.

One student presented on Sweden, mentioning that one of their top exports is motor vehicles.

“Does anyone know the famous car company in Sweden?” Mr. Balk asked.

“Volvo!” a voice replied with confidence from the back of the room. This draws a direct connection for how another country’s goods are a part of the global economy and also part of daily life.

In another presentation, a sixth grader mentioned how Saudi Arabia’s major export is oil. The price that the US buys oil from Saudi Arabia determines gas prices at the pump. The landscape of the world is vast yet interconnected in trade, commerce, and cultural exchange. Much of the students’ work lies in understanding these connections, dispeling prejudice, and searching factual representations of the world.

“You clearly had a good understanding of the information you were presenting.” Mr. Balk complimented a student on his articulation of how Russia’s geography made only certain parts of the country habitable. This project compounded research and note-taking skills with an opportunity for sixth graders to practice their public speaking. The aesthetics as well as the content and delivery of material were pivotal in making a captivating presentation. Slide decks included a clear title, table of contents, bulleted informational slides and cited sources. Sixth graders also expanded their knowledge of gross domestic product per capita, life expectancy rate, and democracy ranking—all of which determine a citizen’s quality of life.

DCD teachers make history engaging, using students’ personal circumstances as reference points for learning about international policy and culture outside of the DCD community. By researching any subject matter deeply, students relate to each other and new situations with more ease, empathy, and compassion.