May 8th, 1945 was a huge day for America. It’s VE Day, the anniversary of the defeat of Nazi Germany during WWII. The war wouldn’t be over until late summer 1945 when the Japanese finally surrendered, but the Victory in Europe alone brought about celebrations from sea to shining sea. That’s because when times get tough Americans band together as a nation. Behind this united front, lies the untold stories of the everyday people doing amazing things. That’s why I love American History. It’s been said that we need to “Make America Great Again.” I disagree. I think America is ALREADY great. And I believe that even more so after following along with one man’s powerful mission of kindness and goodwill. That man is Chris Strub. In his book 50 States, 100 Days, available on the Team Strub site, he recounts his 2015 journey to volunteer with youth organizations in all 50 states in just 100 days. And he did it. And the way he captured the spirit of America is enough to fill someone’s eyes with tears the next time they stand with hand over heart and sing along with the National Anthem.
There’s another aspect to the book. Chris did Snapchat interviews with people at each organization along the way. That unique format of documenting his journey brings a powerful interactive component to the book. I found that I enjoyed watching the interviews before reading the tale of each state so that I could picture the people. And of course when I did I fell in love. Many times over. With the volunteers who dedicate their lives to serving a community that served them as a child and with some kids with big dreams and goals for the future. That’s where the hope lies.
And reading the book made me realize I am still a teacher. Just one gone rogue with a mission that expands beyond 4 cinder block walls. I’ve felt uncomfortable saying that since I left the public school classroom. This book reminded me that teachers can come in the form of a shaggy-haired wayfaring traveler, the million dollar smile of a little boy named Felix, or the confident declarations of future presidential candidate Abbi. If this book doesn’t inspire you, I’m afraid you need to have your pulse checked. Chris’s gentle spirit and heart of gold shine through as he shares the good, the bad, and the ugly of his journey. His vulnerability and authentic writing style show you the magnitude of sharing your story and using social media for good.
As soon as I started reading I knew this book would make an amazing read-aloud mentor text for teachers to use. So naturally I had to make a list of 50+ ideas to use as a companion to the journey. Many of them are what I call “thinking questions” that could be used as writing prompts or small group discussion topics. I have the suggestions organized by ideas for before, during, and after the trip. *”Thinking Questions” Are Designated by Italics to Use as Discussion Starters or Writing Prompts, etc. To make things easier on myself I am using bullet points but you can bet there are more than 50!
- How would you go about planning a trip like this?
- What essentials would you have taken with you?
- What advice would you give him before he left?
- Have you ever volunteered?
- Chris used Snap Chat to document his journey. How would you capture a trip like this?
- Plot the trip itself as you read on Google Maps or a printable map.
- Plot the quotes as you read on Google Maps or a printable map.
- Plot the non-profit organizations as you read on Google Maps or a printable map.
- Chris shares the good times and the bad. Fill out a Windows Notes sheet for each region as you read. To learn more about Windows Notes click here.
- Chris uses transition words and phrases to keep the story moving. Find 10 examples of transition words and phrases.
- He also throws in some pretty fancy pants words like “eschewing.” Keep a list of “sparkle words” as you read. Want to know more about sparkle words? Check out this blog post about how I helped my 5th graders add style to their writing: Using Flocabulary for Sparkle Words
- Chris decided not to proofread extensively and just published the book. What is your opinion on this? What do you think makes a great writer? Perfect punctuation and grammar or ideas and descriptive language?
- What types of crops would be best to plant if E.A.T. South built a farm in your state? (Alabama)
- Abbi dreams of being president. What character traits make for a good leader? Which of these do you possess? (Wyoming)
- Chris gets to taste a special type of soup enjoyed by local children in Colorado. Research more about traditional foods belonging to your family’s culture.
- What kind of community art project could you create and what would it stand for? (Nebraska)
- Design a digital tribute to your classmates/family (Nebraska)
- Would you have stopped to help the fallen runner in Iowa?
- What would you tell Felix? (Illinois)
- While visiting Read for Literacy in Ohio, Chris selects Where the Wild Things Are. What is your favorite children’s book?
- Chris’s most prized possession is his gray Binghamton Bearcats cap. What are your most treasured objects? (New Hampshire)
- Kids in Massachusetts had their own outdoor game called “Gaga.” Invent your own game and play it!
- Chris was put on the spot to give a speech in New Jersey. Write about what you would have said to the kids in the audience.
- Ok. now put yourself in the shoes of a kid in the audience. Describe the experience as a kid listening to Chris speak.
- Chris had planned to pay off some layaway accounts for shoppers in Maryland but realized he didn’t have the money to do so. He found a way to follow through though. What would you have done in this situation?
- What type of living classroom project would you design? (Maryland)
*Please seek parent or guardian’s permission before completing any of the *ideas involving donations or volunteering.
- Chris said at the end his personal journey was just beginning. If you were him, what would you have done next after the journey?
- Which quotes meant the most to you?
- What quote would you write on the #hondahotel?
- If you could interview Chris, what would you ask? Make a list of 10 questions.
- *Reach out to Chris on http://www.teamstrub.com and see if you can ask him some of the questions!
- Which one of the non-profit organizations would you like to learn more about?
- Come up with a creative hashtag to summarize the adventures in each state.
- *Collect unused toys, books, or clothes and make a donation.
- *Learn more about local organizations. Volunteer your time.
- How could you use social media to spread awareness for social good?
- Research nearby minor league baseball teams. If your state doesn’t have one pick a the closest one.
- *Pick 1 of the charities and see if you can raise $10 to donate to them.
- Encourage your family to use Amazon Smile for making purchases on Amazon. Shoppers pick a charity to receive a portion of proceeds each time a purchase is made. Learn more here. Amazon Smile Page
- Plot out where you would go in each state on a map.
- How would the book and the journey be different without Snapchat?
- Which volunteer would you like to meet most? What would you ask them?
- Write a letter to one of the organizations.
- Find some of the organizations on social media and follow them!
- What was your favorite moment of the trip?
- Design an ad for BBBS (Big Brothers Big Sisters).
- How do you think BBBS can get more male “bigs”?
- Come up with a creative way to reenact an interview.
- Write a thank you letter to Hard Rock Cafe or one of the other companies who supported Chris along the way.
- What kind of programming does your local YMCA offer? Which of these would you like to participate in?
- There were many times along the journey Chris felt like giving up. Have you ever felt this way when trying to complete something? Who can you reach and talk to if this happens again?
- Write a letter to the the governor of Wyoming persuading them to start a Girls on the Run chapter! Even better, send it!
- Learn about regions. Pick one region and create a comic strip about the journey. Check out my free Southeastern Region Label and Learn Set. Click the pictures to get it!
- Learn more about National Park Service! Click the picture to learn more!
- A lot of the organizations empower kids to be able to deal with bullying. Write a rap to stop bullying. If possible, use Flocabulary’s Bullying Clip. They offer a free trial.
- Create a #hondahotel bulletin board using your favorite quotes.
- Would you have done anything differently if you were Chris?
Want to find out more about what Chris is up to now? You can still find him snapping his journey on Snapchat! This book inspired me in more ways than I can even count. And to think it all started with finding a like-minded tribe via Periscope. Someone I know shared one of Chris’s broadcasts and I instantly knew that this man is a kindred spirit. We share a very similar mission. And that is to build community and help empower kids. My next venture is the Creativity, Connections, and Content Project, which will be a virtual community to support kids with ADHD and their families. Everyone should have a place to feel like they belong. Want to stay updated about this project? Sign up at here to get the exclusive updates on United as a Family We Stand, my course to help build the communication gap between parents and their kiddos with ADHD. http://bit.ly/UNITEDASAFAMILYNEWSLETTER
Hey, wait! Do you need more geography help? Check out this post Mapping Out Your S.S. Space which includes info about my U.S. Landmark iSpy Sets including this bundle! Perfect for the end of the school or as an introduction at the beginning!