John, I am in a similar position at a private school in Texas. I have
used the state guidelines for each grade level, then looked at what
each grade level will be studying in Social Studies and linked our
work to the Social Studies curriculum.
For example, SIxth graders are studying World Civ so we focus on Art
of Ancient Civilizations and I select projects that tie in to this.
We look at the artifacts they might have seem in Social Studies but
analyze them aesthetically. Troll around museum web-sites for fun on
line homework. I might assign them to go to the local museum website
and look at four artifacts that are from the culture are are focused
on, They are to select one and email me a paragraph about it. I
might ask tem to tell me which one they would like to own, for
example, and why. Nothing stressful.
Last year, I had a great opportunity to collaborate with the
Comparative religions teacher on a big project.