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Activities for Exploring Social Institutions

Adapted from Bob Greene

Poster Preparation

        In groups of two or three, have students select one of the social institutions in their text. Their choices are the family, religion, education, politics, economy, media, or science. They should read the chapter they selected, try to identify at least one theoretical perspective on the institution and then each group member should focus on one of the following variables: age, race/ethnicity, or gender.  Each person in the group is responsible for each one of the variables and each group must present the information in poster form. For instance, each poster will combine textual information with symbolic information. If one were to represent the function of religion, one might show a picture of people praying together, symbolizing the solidarity that religion creates. If the picture is of women, the caption might explain how women are more likely to score higher on religiosity scales.  Each group should also hand in a typed explanation of the poster after presenting it to the class.

Scavenger Hunt

Purpose:  To give students an understanding of the various social institutions in neighborhoods in their community. These will include, family, economy, politics, religion, health, and media.

Preparation: Students will work in groups of two or three and will need the following, a car, a video camera or camera, a notetaker, and artifacts. (Artifacts are the collectible items that they bring back from their neighborhoods and present to the class. Thus, the name of the activity, scavenger hunt.)

What to do?

Students should select a neighborhood, an eight by eight block radius. Provide maps of the community as well as maps of the metropolitan area for students to use for reference.  Their task is to identify the social institutions in their neighborhood.  For example, for the family, they might look for homes for sale, learn the value of the house and include that information in their research. Remind them that the various institutions have interrelations with each other. Consider the following: where are stores located, are certain types of stores located in close proximity to each other? What is historically significant about the neighborhood, what is the ethnic, racial diversity of the neighborhood? How has the neighborhood changed, are certain blocks more diverse than others. What might explain this phenomenon?  Students are to research these institutions.  Many of them will have websites that they can visit.

Presentation: Students will report their findings to the class via a poster, power point, or video presentation. Each group member must contribute a certain part of the presentation equally. They will be evaluated on how thoroughly they have researched their neighborhoods and the presentation of their artifacts.

Wrap Up: Each student will submit a type written assessment of this project along with the group’s presentation. Each paper should be written from the individual’s perspective, although the group collaborated. Make sure that all the social institutions are included if applicable. Remind student to follow the American Sociological Association’s Code of Ethics.