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Exploring Our Past

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This project is a collaboration between a high school English teacher and a Media Specialist. Because there is uncertainty about the history teacher for next year, we have not included a history teacher in the planning phase. The lower-level Junior English students have written research papers about special times in history by researching the era and creating fictionalized first-hand accounts of the event. In the past, all work has been done by individuals as they research using books, encyclopedias, magazines, and Internet resources. Their final product has been a written research paper.
For this project, High School students are challenged to explore and research Revolutionary War soldiers buried within our county. During the project, student groups ask questions, research and write fact-based reports and create multimedia presentations about the soldiers, the era in which they lived and the effects of war in general. Based on collaboration with experts, interviews with local historians, research through on-line museums and schools, and interviews with local veterans, these students create web sites with images and fictionalized stories, letters, journals and accounts of these soldiers . These stories of war and its effects will be posted on the Internet along with photographs and art relating to their report.
The ultimate goal of this project is to not only write well and convey historical events, but to help students draw meaning by asking questions, finding answers, and relating the effects of war in general (especially as it relates to current world events.) Prior knowledge and skills will be addressed through a writing assessment and through early discussions of the Revolutionary War.

Getting Started

As an introductory activity to the concept of Engaged Learning, the instructor involves the students in a discussion beginning with the question, "Would you rather . . . listen or do; watch or play?" The Engaged Learning concept is presented using this sports analogy:
Most people would rather play in a game than watch it - and players only really learn when actively involved in a sport.
The instructor then explains that students are about to begin a semester activity on the Revolutionary War and the effects of war. Following an excerpt from Ken Burns Civil War film, the teacher engages students in asking questions about war. All questions during this brainstorming session will be posted on the Internet. Students may possibly ask questions such as:
  How did war effect these revolutionary war veterans?
Do the gravestones tell us anything?
What was our world like when these people lived?
What effect does war have on communities, young people, families, etc.?
At the end of this brainstorming session, the teacher explains the need to help the local Historical society with information on local Revolutionary War veterans buried within our county as well as the effects of war. Their first assignment is to list 3 to 5 questions that they are interested in, either from their brainstorming session or questions of their own. The following day, students travel to visit area graves of Revolutionary War veterans and make rubbings of tombstones.
On the third day, the class groups the brainstorming questions by topics they choose and add any additional questions they may have. The students must discuss and reach a consensus on how to group the questions. Once the questions are categorized, students are grouped based on their interests. The first half of the project involve a variety of experiences, research, and collaboration by students individually and within their groups.
Individuals and student groups are required to complete assignments in 4 week Assignment Blocks. They can choose what they do and when they do it within that time frame. Students are responsible for choosing the direction of their project and the pace of the project.
Assignment Block 1 and Assignment Block 2 focus on background work, utilizing the technology for exploration, and locating resources. They are required to read one book that relates in some way to the topic of war and its effects. They submit three typed papers and must regularly post their individual and group findings to the COW.

In Progress


During the Assignment Block 4, Student groups complete web pages with appropriate graphics that summarize their inquiry into the Revolutionary War. Individual students compose fictionalized written research reports based on their group and individual work. Individual reports may or may not be included on the web site.
Students are assessed with a rubric that reflects the development of their work. They also complete an essay exam and participate in graded discussion. Students have the option of visiting the grade school and junior high to discuss their project. Students are be assessed by their group members based on their contract. Their teacher assesses the work handed in and the information posted electronically (e-mail, COW, listserv, etc.).
Please take some time to complete our Project Evaluation Form.
Created for the Fermilab LInC program sponsored by Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory Education Office and Friends of Fermilab, and funded by United States Department of Energy, Illinois State Board of Education, North Central Regional Technology in Education Consortium which is operated by North Central Regional Educational Laboratory (NCREL), and the National Science Foundation. Clip Art from Kid's Domain. See our Site Map.

Author(s): Jim Caldwell, Jan Jungk
School: Carrollton High School, Carrollton, Illinois
Created: March 10, 1999 - Updated: May 1, 1999
URL: http://www-ed.fnal.gov/lincon/w99/projects/chswar/scenario.html