Spanishtopia was a semester-long project designed to develop interest in the Spanish language, to keep a sustained interest in learning Spanish, to encourage the development of higher levels of thinking skills in middle school students studying Spanish as an elective course, to promote the transfer of learning, and to meet the required state standards.  The project used Doreen Nelson’s method of Design-Based Learning called Backwards-Thinking™ to provide the teaching tools, hands-on experiences, design options, and collaborative activities that make learning meaningful and engage students in active learning. 

The curriculum sequence included ten design pathways which involved the entire class in the creation of a three-dimensional miniaturized simulated city in the classroom.  Building the city became the students’ project throughout the course.  Each pathway included a design action that consisted in the creation of a three-dimensional model in a Never-Before-Seen (NBS) way.  The NBS models were symbolic representations of the students’ solution to a given problem.  All students’ creations were added to the class simulation that was located in the center of the classroom.   The creation of the city encouraged exploration of ideas of their own,  fostered critical thinking, promoted collaboration, development of interpersonal skills, and use of the Spanish language in context.  Throughout the course, the project sequence increased in complexity and depth, and led to a culminating learning experience that tied all the pathways together. 

Middle school students in the initial stages of  developing Spanishtopia