Students struggle at all ages to deeply analyze symbolism. This project allows students to choose (or be provided) a symbol from the text and analyze the symbols connection to characters and themes using text evidence and close reading to draw conclusions about meaning.
This is an excellent alternative to a symbolism essay - let them SHOW what they know! I have used this in many variations, but my favorite is to assign groups a symbol and ask them to present their findings. THEN, have students write about another group's symbol (ah, make 'em focus during those presentations).