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Fifth Grade ELA Researches Ethics in Business

Fifth grade ELA students are researching large companies’ business practices for a project based on human rights and business ethics.
The assignment developed after students showed interest in taking on a research project while learning about human rights activism. Fifth grade ELA instructor Alexandra Ackerman worked together with elementary school librarian Beth McCheyne to structure the project in a way that would be manageable for fifth grade students.
“I feel strongly that a lack of human rights is one of the world's biggest problems right now,” said Sylvia Brock, a student in the class. “I thought it would be great for us to research these things and do what we could to fix things that scream in the face of human rights."
Students picked the topic they wished to research and, after their topic was approved by the teacher, the class was placed into groups based on students researching similar subjects. Members of each group were given specialized tasks to focus on during research such as locating sources, checking sources for credibility and printing gathered materials. This method added a collaborative element to the otherwise individual project and also helped keep the research process from getting too overwhelming.
Research topics represented a wide variety of companies, including Apple, Under Armour, the NFL, auto companies like Ford and GMC and a number of chain restaurants such as McDonalds, Burger King and Pizza Hut. Students gathered information about companies’ business practices to learn about treatment of workers, environmental impacts or any other insights that could be found.
“I've learned that Folgers denied 677 applications for a technician job just because the applicants were black," Aven Bower said. “I was surprised to learn that such discrimination still exists, especially so many years after the Civil Rights Movement.”
This project gives students a chance to learn about a subject they are interested in while also engaging with real world issues in a unique way.