Big hair, music videos on the TV, the Berlin Wall coming down, and cell phones were just considered science fiction. Welcome to the 1980s. And now...it's time to go back.
Trapped in the 80's
is a project based learning activity that asks students to take a deeper dive into the 1980s. This PBL is a little different as kids are thrown into the past when they turn on a magical boombox. From there, they'll move through over 20 activities that take them throughout different elements of the decade. Pop culture, clothing, hair, history, and technology trends are just some of the topic students will encounter. There's also plenty of references to iconic pop culture moments that'll make you wonder if you've gone back to the future.
Students may need to have access to a variety of resources to complete this PBL. This could include maps, internet access, and laptops/computers/devices. This project intertwines portions of math, ELA, and social studies with problem solving, design, and art skills. As students work through each page, they will make their own decisions and choose the outcomes based on information they learn. By the end, all students will have completed the project, but each version will be based on the creator’s imagination, creativity, and knowledge base.
WHY the 80's
The 1980s are a perfect gateway for students to begin understanding how history affects the future even if it’s only 30 years in the past. Many kids remark about the old days when they reference the 80‘s (which is pretty funny and true) but almost 30 years removed and the influence of the decade lives on.
Although every decade has important pop culture elements that carried through the years, the 1980s were a bit different. The addition of cable television, blockbuster movies, and technology brought pop culture to people around the globe at a faster rate than anyone could imagine.
Title Page & Introduction
Students are given the backstory and learn they are trapped in the 80’s. This opening portion is three pages long. The second page has students make an inference in a drawing, based on what they have read. This introduction can be printed out or completed as a class to begin the project.
Totally Rad Vocabulary
Students must define vocabulary words that were popular during that decade. They may write or draw the definitions.
Students research some of the hairstyles that were popular during the decade. On the second page students will pick two trends and learn the history of it, along with connecting it to present time.
Students research fashion trends that were popular. They will choose two fashions and research more on each.
Students create a “look” for themselves through the fashion and hairstyle trends.
Then and Now
Students identify items that were popular in the 1980s and compare them to materials like it today. This is three pages long.
Swatches of Watches
Students design watches for the growing trends that took place during this time.
Students compare technology available in the 1980s and our current time today using a Venn diagram.
Dirt Bike Design
Students create a dirt bike course then find the area and perimeter of each item inside the course. This is a three page activity.
Karate Championship Flyer
Students design a flyer for an upcoming karate championship.
Students tell how to use a cassette player and discuss why cassettes were such a popular piece of technology for teens.
Never Say Treasure
Students create a treasure map that some local kids discovered which helped locate a pirate ship that was hidden in a cave.
Students create (or recreate) movie posters from a 1980s movie or a recent one.
After School Special
Students develop an after-school-special TV episode for kids on how to help the environment. They will plan an idea and write a three page script. This is a multiple page activity.
Students must use a map and plan/write out directions from their location to the tallest point in their town/city.
Students take a short story and turn it into a comic (which is the end of the activity). This can be expanded to a longer graphic novel if the students would like (if allowed by the teacher).
What Just Happened
Students write a short narrative story about their adventure back to the 1980s.
Students will research each year of the decade to find out what was big in the world. This includes the biggest news story, movies, toys, and technology. Students will write what they feel is the biggest news story for that year and tell why/why not the story might not be relevant to today.
Best of the 80’s & Additional
Additionally, there is a page at the end with an unnumbered 80’s year (198_). This page focuses on topics such as economics, social justice, education, local and world news.
Around the World
Students will research and cover 9 topics that happened around the globe that were world changing events. This includes the Exxon oil spill, finding the Titanic, Chernobyl nuclear meltdown, the creation of the Nintendo, and more.
Influencers of the Decade
Students research 12 different people/groups that impacted the decade. They will research why they are important and if they are still relevant today. This includes astronauts, writers, and entertainers. -Students can also choose their own people they would like to research with three blank pages to use.
Students create a timeline by picking 12 of the most important events of the decade. This can be completed on the page or students can create it on larger paper or electronically.
Students must reflect on the importance of the 1980s and how it compares to life today. These questions are open ended and depend on how each students looks at/understand the decade.
The project has two sections to it. These sections can all be used together or broken up into smaller chunks. The parts are:
-1st: Trapped in the 80’s
This is a story with 18 individual tasks and activities. These include writing, story telling, researching pop culture, art/design, and math skills.
-2nd: The 1980s, Deconstructed
This portion focuses on the history of the 1980s, with a page devoted to each year. There’s also a portion where students research about nine major events that took place during that time, and researching people who impacted the decade.
You can use this project based learning activity in a variety of ways. It is broken into multiple sections that can be completed together or in smaller chunks. The main portion focuses on story. You DO NOT have to print each of those pages. Go through and pick ones that fit your students best. This includes the direction pages, which can be projected for students to read/follow.
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-Laptop/Computer, Internet Access
-Colored pencils, markers
-Access to historical books on the decade of the 1980s
--This PBL focuses on pushing students to explore, create, design, and research a decade while applying problem solving techniques and collaborating with others. It allows for easy differentiation, so students can work at a pace they will be successful at. There are steps and procedures to assist students through this project, but the work and results will be determined by their ideas that each students adds.
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