A key to making learning interesting is to connect the content to the lives of students. This can be tricky in history, when everything one studies is in the past. Connections are burgeoning this year for seventh graders, as they research their living history project about an invention of the past that still has relevance in the present day.
Students made choices about which invention to research– an excellent way to help students invest in a project is to give them choice. Another way that their teacher, Jake Lahey, has helped the students to invest in the work, is that the stakes are high: Students will be presenting the history of their inventions to parents and other students at our first middle school Living History Day on April 29.
“We are conducting the research to connect to things today. We are focusing on the history and things today. We are digging deep into how things work.”
The project has a few components. Students will be writing a traditional research paper in which they read, synthesize and cite sources to back up a thesis statement that asks them to establish how the impact from the invention they chose from the 18th or 19th century, is still “living” with the United States and the world today. With their knowledge, each student will design a museum exhibit with words and visuals that makes the information accessible to an audience on Living History Day. Finally, one component of the display will be something the student has constructed. Whether on our school’s 3-D printers, or being build in the maker room, students will have a model of the invention for the audience to view.
The diversity of inventions being researched indicates the wide array of interests our students have: project choices range from the drum set (yes, it was a 19th century invention– long before rock & roll!), the typewriter and the hockey stick! A visitor is met with a buzz of excitement and activity upon walking into the iStudio and Maker Rooms during their tinkering time.
The learning and the connection is summed up best in a seventh grader’s words: “We get to choose something, and have freedom to do things our way. We got to choose anything, and anything we chose has a history, and that history is big!” and “It’s fun, it’s always a good thing to make things and learn about something you never thought you’d learn about.”