The Utopian Fair

As a preface to American Literature students examine the idea of Utopia and the "shining city on a hill" by designing their own Utopias.

Photo of Cole Godvin
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Students read excerpts from Thomas Moore's Utopia and Sir Francis Bacon's New Atlantis and the “City upon a Hill” section of the sermon “A Model of Christian Charity” by John Winthrop.  Students list utopian ideals that affected the founding of the United States. As a class students list ideals that they feel would be essential to the founding of a modern day utopia. Based on these ideals in groups students then design and promote a utopian community organized around a key principle. One class meeting is devoted to a "Utopia Fair" that much like a job fair or college fair promotes individual utopias that seek adherents to their cause and way of life. Students circulate amongst the displays that each include a map, a bill of rights and a history of the utopia's founding. Each group is required to leave one member to "man the table" at all times. At the end of the class period students vote on the Utopia they would most like to join. They then as a group discuss why those ideals and community where appealing and how they might relate to the early and contemporary America. 

How does this idea help to spark student curiosity?

Students often accept history as a simple given -- this project encourages them to consider the ideals that were weighed in the founding and design of our country and the way that those ideals have impacted the American consciousness and consequently played out in American Literature.

What grade level is this idea most appropriate for?

  • High School (9-12)

1 comment

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Photo of James Campbell

Hi Cole
I love the idea of them considering what makes a utopian society and then sharing those thoughts.
I wonder if you could include a Gov't or US teacher in this process.