Carmen Sandiego Cross-Curricular Solutions
Carmen travels to many places around the globe. By tracing her trail, students can learn to read and follow a map. Along with using some of HMH’s free online resources, you can incorporate her travels into geography and history studies.
Every year, I teach a unit about the world wonders, and there is great opportunity to incorporate Carmen’s travels into this unit. Students can learn about the specific history of places she visits and the potential world wonders in those locations.
There is also room for students to create cross-curricular connections with science, as they can learn about the environment of these places and how to preserve them. I recently taught a service learning unit about the importance of recycling and the effects of pollution on our earth. Students can pretend they are the “Carmen Sandiego of the natural world,” and create their own plan to preserve and “rescue” the environment, dealing with the “criminal” of pollution. They can use a map to trace out the places they would virtually travel to and provide real-world solutions to problems from climate change.
The Carmen Sandiego archetype can also serve as a model for students to create their own characters and go on their own quests. In math, Carmen can portray a problem solver, answering math questions based on the places she travels. No matter which subject you teach, there is a way to incorporate her adventurous spirit into activities for your curriculum.
Fairytales and Stereotypes: Carmen Sandiego Breaks the Mold
Carmen does not follow the typical stereotype for a female figure in classic hero/princess texts. One unit I teach every year is about how fairytales disenfranchise princesses and stereotype princes based on their genders. We read stories like “Snow White,” “Sleeping Beauty,” and “Cinderella.” Incorporating Carmen’s story as an example of an enfranchised protagonist is a perfect addition to the unit.
Teaching the book can be an opportunity for students to learn about specific gender stereotypes in these stories, and why those stereotypes exist. Students can identify and explain why women were disenfranchised in classic fairytales and how characters like Carmen Sandiego are crafted to defy the norm. Instead of being weak, helpless, complacent, and valued for her looks, Carmen is independent, strong-willed, and clever. She is not waiting for a prince to save and marry her, nor is she being targeted by a jealous witch. Instead, her value and agency come from her intelligence, thoughtfulness, and independence. Through self-empowerment and creativity, she brings justice to the world.