American Culture Project: An analysis of students' culture in the context of American society

The American Culture Project (ACP) is a year long project that AOC students will complete during their junior year. Throughout the course of the fall semester, juniors are continuously engaged in examining the various cultural elements that impact themselves and their family, and relating those elements to the larger cultural fabric of America. This research culminates in May in an in-class, multimedia presentation concerning their cultural perspective.

One of the key goals of junior year at the Academy of the Canyons is to have students examine American culture from a variety of different perspectives. Discussions on issues such as racism, immigration, civil rights, and gender and sexual norms all help us to better understand what America is, both to the world and to each of us individually. A full appreciation of this understanding requires us to examine what our own culture is, and how it interacts with the larger American culture; the ACP allows students to fulfill this objective.

Definitions of “culture”

From - The behaviors and beliefs characteristic of a particular social, ethnic,or age group; In Anthropology - the sum total of ways of living built up by a group of human beings and transmitted from one generation to another. (
On Organizational Culture - Organizational culture includes an organization's expectations, experiences, philosophy, and values that hold it together, and is expressed in its self-image, inner workings, interactions with the outside world, and future expectations. It is based on shared attitudes, beliefs, customs, and written and unwritten rules that have been developed over time and are considered valid. (
From Kristi McGrath of Penn. State - Culture includes every aspect of a person's life that influences who that person is. It may include such elements as music, art, media, traditions, beliefs, societal systems, etc. (

If you think about your own life, you may quickly realize that no one culture represents any of us. Our cultural heritage, usually ethnically related, provides one obvious starting point, but there are also the cultures defined by our families, our friends, our hobbies, and our religion (to name a few). Most of us have several cultures that we interact with on a regular basis and on multiple levels. This is commonly known as being “multicultural.”

Students begin the ACP by developing their multicultural awareness, taking the time to consider their heritage, their ethnic background, pertinent aspects of their racial identity, and other characteristics that shape their family’s identity. They are asked to talk with your family, to identify where their ancestors came from when they immigrated to the United States, what aspects of that ethnic heritage still influence them and their family, and what, if any, aspects of your racial identity inform your thoughts about themselves. With that foundation, students are challenged to place themselves within a broader context of the community and society, and consider contextual cultural elements that shape their day to day life.

During these initial stages throughout the fall, students will:

  • Develop a deeper understanding of the concept of culture by identifying different elements of culture as they pertain to their life and influences;

  • Identify the cultures that define them and map them, visually, in a graphic organizer;

  • Create a graphic representation of how they see themselves in relation to either American culture, or a global popular culture, focusing on the most significant or proximal culture that influences their life and worldview;

  • Develop an annotated bibliography of articles, stories and other resources that help define their culture; and

  • Select a core text that will guide their research into their culture during the spring semester.

After selecting a core text, students will spend the spring semester reading and analyzing the selected text. Then, they will write a 3-4 page paper that summarizes, contextualizes, and evaluates the source as it pertains to their culture and to the role of that culture in American society as a whole. The review is both analytical and reflective in nature, as it summarizes the text and presents an argument as to how the text shapes their understanding of the culture in American society.

Content has been provided by the syllabi and directions provided by AOC staff.

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