Creating Your Own Unit Studies
Research Projects

Research Projects

   A motivated child may learn even more from his own project than from a teacher-created unit. The teacher helps by providing structure, motivation, encouragement, and materials needed by the student. You may require a written report plus an oral one, or only an oral one, plus creative projects like maps, illustrations, and models.

    Give the child a structure by assigning deadlines for different parts of the project. The older the child, the more time you can give to complete the project, up to 8 weeks.

Here is an example of assignments and deadlines for a six week project for a fairly motivated 12 year-old child.

One week before you begin:
•    Tell your children they will become an expert on a subject of their choice. Or ask them to choose a subject within a topic you assign such as the Civil War Period or Geology.   Encourage them to begin thinking of what they would like to study. Give them some ideas if necessary, and help them focus on a topic. Be enthusiastic and help them become excited about their project.

1st Day:
•    Select and narrow a topic for study, and create a tentative title for your project
•    Spend the day at the library helping them find and select materials to study.

1st Week Assignments:
•    Create a bibliography of the books you chose to study.
•    Assign each book a number, and list: Title of book, Author, and publisher
•    Create a list of ideas for visual aids etc.
•    Write a short paragraph introducing your subject.
•    Use 3x5 cards to collect info on your subject. Each new fact should be on a new card.  You don't have to write complete sentences on the card, just just a few words to record the information.  At the bottom of each card, put the number of the book from your bibliograghy, and the page number the info was found.  For example;     #2 - page 23.   That way if you need to go back and check on a fact, you know where your information was found.  (Using 3 x 5 cards is a wonderful way to help the student be able to organize his data later.)

2nd Week:
Monday, allow some change to the topic if necessary, but not a completely new subject.  If necessary, return to the library.
•    This week read intensively and begin projects. Continue putting info on cards.
(If necessary, assign a quota of number of cards required each day.)
•    Select 10 vocabulary words and 20 spelling words from your reading to learn this week.

3rd Week:
•    Continue reading, creating cards and doing projects.     
•    Select 10 vocabulary words and 20 spelling words to learn this week.

4th Week:
•    Continue reading, creating cards and doing projects.     
•    Select 10 vocabulary words and 20 spelling words to learn this week.
•    Sort your information cards in a logical way. Put cards that have something in common in stacks.  Now order your cards within each stack, and decided which stacks come first, second etc.
•    Write a topic sentence stating the main idea of each stack of cards.
•    Use your main ideas and cards to create an outline for your presentation.  You can use this outline for your oral report and to write you written report.
•    An outline of the report is due Friday.

5th Week:

•    Write a rough draft of the report using cards and outline. Due Friday.
•    Work on projects.

6th Week:

•    Edit rough draft; polish grammar, spelling, etc.
•    Complete all models or other projects.
•    Written report due Friday.

•    Write questions from your report to test each family member.
•    Be ready to present your oral presentation on following Monday night.

Presentation Night:
    Child does presentation, shows maps, models etc. Child then asks a question of each person to test their listening skills. Each listener gives positive comments. Refreshments are served. Written report including illustrations, maps etc. may be taken to the copiers to be bound into a book.

*Sometimes do your own presentation as an example.

You may choose to sometimes allow the child to present only an oral report and not require a written report.


by Joyce R.

  Unit studies can be used as the foundation of your curriculum, or add interest to your regular study plans. This approach is fun, and kids learn a lot. It really works well with kids of different ages. It does take a lot of time for the parent to plan the units.

Unit studies can be from 1 to 6 weeks or more. The teacher should provide a framework of assignments and projects for each week but allow for flexibility when the children come up with their own ideas.   For all units studies, plan reading and writing assignments, spelling and vocabulary lists, and visual or hands on activities. You will probably need to use a seperate math curriculum. 

It works well to do a unit for several weeks, then return to a more formal curriculum for a few weeks while you plan for the next unit. You may choose to do a whole year of history-based units to study a large subject; or you may choose to change from a science unit, to a history unit, then an art unit for a change of pace.Here are more ideas.

All Subjects

    Read, read, read, everything you can find about the subject. Think visually... think of things that would be fun to MAKE. Think of PLACES to visit. Think of EXPERTS to visit or get advice from. WRITE away for information. Think of MUSIC, ART, WRITING SKILLS, GAMES. Try to tie in a SCRIPTURE STORY. For instance in your bird unit, teach about where birds fit in the story of the creation, the ravens that fed Elijah, and the dove released by Noah.
    The more you practice, the easier it will be to get ideas. Creativity is a skill that can be developed!

Commercial Unit Study Curriculums:
Konos, PO Box 1534 Richardson TX 75083
Weaver, 2752 Scarborough, Riverside CA 92503
(LDS) Iron Rod, PO Box 1205, Rainier OR 97048-1205

How to Create Your Own Units

(Allow several weeks to create the unit.)
1. Make a list of possible unit subjects. Choose a unit that would appeal to everyone in the family.
2. Now (you) research your topic using books from the library, textbooks, and if possible, the internet. for many unit study ideas on the internet. Create an outline of areas of focus that you want your children to learn.
3. Create assignments to help teach the areas of focus. Vary the assignments. For example:
    Reading and Writing Assignments
    Read out loud to your children.
    Assign reading assignments.
    Assign vocabulary words to learn and use
    Assign spelling words from the subject
    Assign writing projects       
    Use music to teach ideas, or to gain an atmosphere for your study
    Listen to music
    learn songs and dances
    create new songs
    Integrate a little math if you can.
    For example: We gained our independence in 1776. How many years ago was that? or Make a graph of the number of birds you see at the bird feeder at different times of the day.   
    Help the children do and create:
posters, maps, models, costumes, newspapers, ABC books, learning games,
collections, experiments, demonstrations, book reports, instruction manuals, carvings, sculptures, paintings, original songs, new games, poems, lists of appropriate scriptures, etc.
Have fun!
Go on field trips that will help teach the areas of focus.
Watch documentaries and movies about the unit.

       The idea is to immerse the child in the subject. I heard of a family who was studying the Benedictine Monks during their Middle Ages unit. The family sat at the candle-lit table while Gregorian Chants played quietly on the stereo. They made illuminated (illustrated) manuscripts of scripture using quill pens and wearing hooded sweat shirts. They had previously eaten their simple dinner of hard rolls, vegetables, and water in silence. Those children imprinted that experience in their minds forever.

4. Think of an exciting way to begin the unit. A project or field trip helps create interest in the area of study.
5. A concluding activity helps keep everyone enthusiastic. We have a family project-sharing night at the end of a unit where each person gives an exciting oral presentation and shows off their models, posters, and maps. After the presentation, the speaker asks questions of the the family to see how well they listened. (They love asking the parents really hard questions!) Then each family member gives positive comments and tells what they liked best about the presentation No criticism is allowed. We serve refreshments at the end.
6. Now that you have your assignments and projects planned, make a schedule and plan when each part of the unit will be done. Some areas of focus will take longer depending on the assignments and projects you want to do. If your children are old enough, create weekly assignment schedules for them.
7. Gather all the supplies you will need for the unit. I like to put them in a special box or closet so I know just where to find them. There is nothing more disappointing than being ready to make a foil-covered shield and being out of foil!
8. Ok! You're ready to go!

---A few more thoughts:
One of the my assignments each week is for the child to come and talk to me about the subject of the week. This is the way I "test" the children about what they have learned. I make sure they have grasped the ideas, and I explain anything they are confused about. If they have not studied as hard as they should, I give additional assignments.

You can give a point value to different assignments. The child can earn up to that number of points, depending on how much work is put into the assignment. The points can be used in figuring their allowance, earning small presents (stickers, candy, etc) or privileges (extra TV time) etc.

Unit studies take time to put together. Three or four per year may be as much as you can do. With older children (12 and up) who are experienced with units, the unit can be designed by the child with some guidance from you. Then instead of a Unit Project it is a "Great Brain Project," or simply, a "Research Project."



Science Activities
Make bird feeder and birdhouses, put out a bird bath, observe birds (Cherry Springs is a great place to watch birds,) study  differences in birds, visit bird sanctuary, collect feathers, hatch an egg, learn life cycles, learn to identify bird songs, look at feather with a microscope, Make a chart of kinds of seeds each type of bird prefers, study flight, make a map of migration routes
Language Arts Activities
Write away for Audubon materials, talk to a bird enthusiast, create a puppet show about birds
Math Activities
Make a graph of kinds of birds seen each day. Determine percentage of different birds in your area.
Art Activities
draw birds, make a feather collage, make bird puppets, make a bird matching game.


Make models of volcanos, do experiments, visit lava flows and other geologic sites, collect rocks, test rocks and minerals, study plate tectonics, go to museums, watch videos.
Language Arts
talk to experts, write away for information, search the internet, write descriptions of geologic sites you visit like a tour guide or field manual.
Make a map showing the location of volcanos or major earthquakes, draw diagrams of different types of volcanos.


  Make maps: Make "walk on" map of USA state outlines to learn states and capitals. Add rivers, mountains, lakes etc. Make a salt-dough clay relief map. Make or buy a puzzle map where each state is a puzzle piece. Make a wall map and paste items on such as toy car in Detroit, cut-out picture of corn in Iowa, gold-painted rock to represent gold mine, etc.
    Study regional food, songs, history, culture, geology, famous residents, pastimes, industries, costumes. Make models of California missions, lighthouse, etc. Do weavings, sand painting etc. Write to the states for information (about 6 to 10 weeks ahead.)

Pocatello City Unit

For young children 3 to 8 years-old

    This is an outline for a fun, informal unit study for young children. Older children would enjoy it too, and in addition to the activities below, could do library book research projects about your areas of study. Most of this unit consists of going on field trips, then "playing" that concept to help the child learn it. Choose from the following activities.

    Visit the Museum of Natural History - ISU
    Visit Bannock County Museum
    Take the Downtown Walk
    Visit the Train Station
    Study old maps
    Read stories of Pocatello children of the past (library books)
    Visit Fort Hall Replica
    Play store: farms grow food, take to wholesaler, sell to stores, people buy
    Play delivery truck
    Tour a Bank - play bank
    Tour a Hospital - play hospital
    Visit a Construction Site - Play Builder
    Play factory - manufacture toys
City Services
    Tour City Hall   
    Tour the Water Department
    Tour the Sewage Treatment Plant
    Tour the Power Company and American Falls Dam
    Play SimCity (Computer game)
City Recreation
    Do a tour of city play grounds, zoo, and Simplot Square
    Hike and fish at Cherry Springs
    Hike to the top of Red Hill to see the entire city.
    Picnic at Scout Mountain
    Go to the Reel Theater

The child will get a greater understanding of occupations, and the workings of the city, and will also have great fun with this unit!


    Make tapestries, mosaic, quill-pen, illustrated manuscript, shield, a battle axe, coat of arms, costumes, castle. Play games from the time, listen to medieval music, read King Arthur, and Robin Hood. Study paintings, Magna Carter, Chivalry, Crusades, Gutenburg, Marco Polo, The Plague, guilds, foods, and countries of your ancestry. Make a large map and make plastic overlays of country boarders, names of countries, Roman Empire, Invasions, etc.

Detailed  MIDDLE AGES Unit

This unit is for children 8 and above, but can be adapted for any age.
I wrote this unit some time ago.  Now I would also add assignments using the internet.  There are wonderful resources including Gregorian Chants,

Note: There are a few references to LDS, (Mormon), doctrine in this unit especially in the section: "The Apostasy." Adapt this unit as you see fit.

All of the books in this list may be found at the Pocatello Public Library in the children's section. There are many others. Ask the librarians to help you.

The Invaders
Medieval World
Young People's Story of the Medieval World
Kings, Bishops, etc.
The Crusades
Growing Up in the Middle Ages

King Arthur
Robin Hood
Men of Steel (about becoming a Knight)
Trumpeter of Krakov (Jr - Sr High)
The Crystal Cave (High School)
Canterbury Tales (High School)*Be selective about which stories you read!

(Most fairy tales were from Middle Ages)

William the Conqueror
Charles the Hammer
St. Benedict
Peter the Hermit
Genghis Khan
Richard the Lionheart
King John
Marco Polo
Kubla Khan
Joan of Arc
Jesus Christ

Weekly Study Themes


1. European-Middle East Map
Make a homemade map of the European Continent and the Middle East. An easy way to do this is to use an overhead projector. Shine a map on a wall. Put a large piece of paper (newsprint) on the wall and trace the outlines. Trace the outlines of the modern countries, but do not write their names. Now get a large piece of clear plastic (buy by the foot or by the roll at Fred Meyer).

Make an overlay for the map with the plastic. Now you can use wax pencils etc to write in the names of the counties on the plastic. Or color on the overlay the area that was controlled by the Roman Empire, You can later make another overlay, or clean off the old overlay and color in the areas where the invaders came from.

Trace the path of the Crusaders, and discuss the terrain they crossed, and what it must have been like for them.

2. Make a Mosaic
You can use beans, pebbles, tiles, small pieces of paper, beads, etc.

3. Make a Time Line of the Middle Ages. Use a long piece of paper and plot the events, people, and periods as you study them. Put the time line on your wall where the children can see it easily.

4. Make Costumes of the Times and People
Let your child choose a person or type of clothing. Deseret Industries is a big help when you need a costume. An old green sweatshirt can be easily changed into a "Robin Hood" type shirt. An old robe can become fit for a King!

5. Make a Castle Model
Use boxes to construct an authentic castle. Use hot glue to assemble.

6. Make a sword, battle axe, or other weapon from cardboard.
Cover with foil. Decorate with fake "jewels" or beads. Or make a shield. Cover with foil and decorate with permanent markers. The effect of the permanent marker on foil is beautiful.

7. Design a Coat of Arms
Study your family history and traits of your family to create a Coat of Arms which fits your family.

8. Make a quill pen
Use a large feather, cut across the quill on a slant with a sharp knife. Use the quill to copy a scripture onto a large piece of paper. Then decorate the boarders of the paper, and the first letter of the scripture.

9. Make a potato print. Visit a Print Shop.

10. Eat Food from the Middle Ages
Rye Bread and Lentil Soup

11. Try Out a Bow and Arrow

12. Learn The Crusaders Hymn
Also, "Ring Around the Rosy "is from this period.

13. Do Middle Ages Sports and Games
Jousting, Chess, Marbles, Tops, Old dances

14. If you can, learn what countries your ancestors lived in during the middle ages. Talk about How their daily life would have been.

**The following are sample weekly assignments for this unit.

A Quick Look at THE ROMAN EMPIRE Write all assignments in sentences.

3 points    1. Together with the family make a large map of Europe and Western Asia. Make a plastic overlay showing the area controlled by the Roman Empire.

4 points    2. A mosaic is a picture made of many tiny pieces glued to a background. The Romans made many beautiful mosaics.
        A. Check "Mosaic" and "Roman Empire" in the encyclopedia.
        B. Look at P. 7 in "The Invaders"
        C. Make a mosaic of your own. You may want to use bean, tiles, pebbles, beads etc. Let me know what materials you need.

4 points    3. Read about the Roman Empire in the encyclopedia and from the library books. Be ready to answer these questions: When did the Roman empire begin? When did it end? What was it like at this time; how did the people live, play, work, go to school? Who was the very most important person who lived during the Roman Empire?

1 point    4. With the family use a long strip of paper to make a time line. Put it up on a long wall in a hall, or down the stairs. On the far left end of the time line, near the     top, write "The      Roman Empire" Make some pictures of Roman buildings, or people under the     writing. You will be adding more to the time line later.

2 points    5. After Jesus was killed, the apostle, Paul, went on four missions to places in the Roman Empire. He was an official Roman Citizen, so he had more rights than a common man and could move freely throughout the empire. Paul and the other missionaries converted many people to the church. They ordained people to the Priesthood. Little church branches were started in many areas such as Corinth, Ephesia, Thessalonia, and others. In the New Testament we can read letters, or epistles, which Paul and others wrote to the new church branches.

        Find a New Testament map of Paul's missionary journeys. Many Bibles have one in the back. Compare these maps with the globe to see which present day countries Paul visited. Write a list of 10 countries visited by Paul.

1 point    6. Ask me to talk to you about the Roman Empire.    
The Apostacy
(Some of this weeks assignments contain LDS Doctrine - Adapt as you see fit)
l pt l. Read these scriptures. They tell about how the prophets foretold that the church would fall away. Be ready to tell me what each scripture means when we have a discussion later.
AMOS 8:11-12
ISAIAH 29:13
(*LDS) 1 NEPHI 13:26
(*LDS) D&C 112:23
l pt 2. Read about the Council of Nicene in the C- Encyclopedia.
4 pts 3. Write a report about Constantine. It should be at least 50 words long. Try looking in the index of some of the books in the unit box, and in the index of the encyclopedias to find information for your report. Do your best. Write a report you can be proud of!
2 pts    4. With the family, put the time of the Apostacy on the time line. Color pictures for this time.
l pt 5. Ask for me to tell you about the Apostacy. (This is when you will need to be able to tell me about the meaning of the scriptures above.)


5 pts 1. Outline pages 14 and 15 of INVADERS. Write in sentences, do your best!
3 pts 2. Make an overlay of the invasions on the map of Europe and the Middle East. (We will do this together.)
2 pts 3. Make a BATTLE AXE. (Check in "Invaders).
2 pts 4. Put the Invasions, and Fall of Rome on the Time Line.
1 pt 5. Ask me to tell you about the fall of Rome.
l pt 6. Ask me for a test about: The Roman Empire, The Apostasy, and the Fall of Rome.
The Dark Ages
4 points    1. Write a 50 word report about one of these people:
        Mohammud- "Young People's Story of the Medieval Work

        Charlemagne "Medieval World"

        Benedict    "Medieval World"

2 points     2. Read "Medieval World" pp 22-24. Write 3 sentences about this.
2 points    3. Make a quill pen.
4 points    4. On a large piece of paper, copy our scripture of the week with your quill pen and ink. Use your best handwriting. Make the first letter of the scripture much larger than the rest of the letters and decorate it with flowers, or other decorations.     Make a fancy border around the scripture with your quill pen. See: "Medieval World p29-30 and "Kings, Bishops..." p51 for more information.
2 points    5. Put the Dark Ages on the Time Line.
1 point    6. Ask me to talk to you about the Dark Ages.

(Next week: Castles!)

The Feudal System

5 points    1. Read all about castles. We will all work together to build a model of an authentic castle. It should have details like towers, drawbridge, portcullis, keep, etc. We will build it out of cardboard boxes. Draw some plans of what you want our castle to be like.

2 points    2. Find out what these words mean. I will ask you about them later.
chain mail

4 points    3. Decide on a Middle Ages Costume. Your costume should be authentic. You can be King Arthur, Charlemagne, Robin Hood, A Queen, A peasant, etc. Design your costume on paper. We will work together to make a costume.

5 points    4. Write a 50 work report on how people lived in the Feudal system.

4 points    5. Read about Coats of Arms. Design your own Coat of Arms. Make a cardboard shield. Cover it with foil. Now use permanent markers to draw your Coat of Arms on your shield. Make a cardboard sword. Cover it with foil.

1 point    6. Ask me to talk to you about the Feudal System. I will also test you on what you have been learning about castles, the daily life of people in the middle ages, and the words you learned in #2.
The Crusades
5 points 1. Read pp 26-33 of "The Crusades", and study the pictures. It is interesting to know that all the pictures in this book were made at the time of the Middle Ages.     Answer the following questions in sentences.
        A. What did most people eat?
        B. If Rolf wants an education, where could he possibly go?
        C. Who were the Sarecens?
        D. Why did people join the Crusades?
        E. Who was Peter the Hermit?
        F. Who was Saladin?
1 point    2. Read pp 52-53 of "The Crusades" and study the pictures.
1 point    3. The Crusades covered 200 years. Which 200 years? Put the Crusades on the time line. Decorate with pictures that show this period.
1 point    4. Look at the map; trace the journey of the Crusaders.
2 points 5. Why did the Europeans finally give up the idea of controlling the Holy land? Be ready to talk to me about this. See: "The Crusades" pp 82-84.
1 point    6. Talk to me about the Crusades.
The End of the Middle Ages
5 points    1. What kind of work did people do? Read: "Growing up in the Middle Ages" pp53-75.     Study the pictures carefully. List all the kinds of work you learned about.
3 points    2. Write a 50 word report about Guilds.
4 points    3. Write a short report about the Geutenburg Press including:
        What it was
        Who invented it
        What year it was invented.
        What Book was the first one printed on it
        Why it helped to end the Middle Ages
2 points    4. Make a potato print.
1 point    5. We will visit a printing business to find out things are printed in our modern times.
5 points    6. Learn about Marco Polo. Be ready to give an oral report on him including:
        Where he went
        What he did
        How his travels helped to end the Middle Ages    

bonus point- What important later explorer was influenced by Marco Polo?

2 points     7. Put the end of the Middle Ages on the Time Line.
1 point    8. Talk to me about the end of the Middle Ages.

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