In my previous life as a classroom teacher, I was a Social Studies teacher (Virginia History, or you could also call it colonial history). When I was told by the principal that this would be my assignment, I conjured visions of my high school History teachers. Do you remember yours? You know—they were always the football coaches or baseball coaches! While we read the chapter and answered the questions at the end of the chapter, the teacher (or coach) would watch football films and prepare his plays for the Friday night game. I despised history and thought it as exciting as watching water boil.
After graduating from college, I subbed for three years in Ohio. At the end of the third year, I was called in for an interview (finally) for a sixth grade history position. Teachers were a dime-a-dozen then, so even GETTING an interview was in itself a major accomplishment! Imagine my shock as I sat down for the interview and the principal’s FIRST question was, “What can you coach?” No mention was made of classroom management, pedagogy, or philosophy. My wife and I left for Virginia knowing that teaching in Ohio was now basically impossible.
However, I digress.
This drove me to recreate how I would present history to my students. I wanted it to come ALIVE and be PURPOSEFUL. I wanted my students to see that history is FUN! One way that I enjoyed doing this was an end-of-the year Colonial Fair. For example, one year, we “lived” in the 1700’s out in the school yard (nine acres). Students had to make their own butter, dig their own garden and plant seeds, make their own candles, make their own bread (yeast, even!), cook their meals as the colonists did [with adult supervision, of course], write with feather quills—all on a day that was quite warm! Parents told me that although their children were EXHAUSTED, they learned exactly what it meant to live in the 1700’s.
The principal of the school where I am on Wednesdays and Thursdays has come up with a brilliant idea for a colonial fair for her school for after testing:
• Each grade level is responsible for a different station (i.e. quill pen writing/colonial cooking/etc.)
• Pull in the Social Studies specialists to assist.
• Many other ideas that I’m not putting here because this is getting long, but here’s the clincher where technology comes in: The upper grade is responsible for documenting the fair through media (podcasting even, maybe?). Maybe it could be done as a “You Were There” approach, maybe Ken Burns style, or maybe a slant on how the fair was put together?
Colonial Fairs seem to not be a major interest in schools. I posted on Classroom 2.0 recently asking for others to share ideas, and apparently not many have tried Colonial Fairs, or don’t associate them with technology.
Has anybody done one with great technology ideas? Have you been to one? Please share ideas! How can I encourage my teachers to get excited about this?