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Insights from the Intersection of Childhood and Education

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Colonial Times Come Alive

The World in the Past - diorama by a 3rd grader

In a recent study of Colonial America, the 3rd and 4th graders in Mrs. Sandler's class not only learned how to write a research paper but they actually brought Early America to life by building a colonial town in their classroom. Students chose their own topic, depending on what was most interesting to them: the thirteen colonies, communication and transportation, public services, everyday life, culture, celebrations, and trade and commerce.

Shops, Clothes and Food in Colonial Times - by a 4th grader

First the students worked through the process of writing a research paper. After gathering all of the information on their topic, they created a set of notes. They also learned about plagiarism, citations, and structure. Along the way they gained a much better understanding of how to read, comprehend and summarize material, and then put what they read into their own words.

Model of a Colonial village by a 4th grader

After completing their reports, they created a colonial town in the classroom to which each student contributed. Discussions abounded as they verified what was and wasn’t around, and what was possible, or how things would be done during Colonial Times. For instance, they were very aware that cars were not around, and that traveling was much harder. A family’s belongings might be loaded into a Conestoga Wagon. See picture below of a model built by a 3rd grader.

Model of a Conestago wagon built by a 3rd grader

Thus history became not "just" an intellectual pursuit, but a tangible one. When the Colonial Village moved into the school's entryway atrium, visitors, and especially pre-schoolers passing through, could not believe it had been built by 3rd and 4th graders, and those very same 3rd and 4th graders were proud to present their work and share all they had learned.

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