J2 Content – Perspectives

A varied collection of thoughts on education and parenting

A Different Way of Learning About Historical Figures

My daughter went to school today dressed as Abigail Adams, wife of 2nd president John Adams. She, along with the rest of her 8th grade Social Studies class, walked down to the local elementary school to talk with the K-5 graders – in character. Of course the more recognizable historical figures (Abe Lincoln & George Washington) were most popular with the younger crowd.

My daughter came armed with letters that Abigail had written to her husband in 1776:

“Remember, all men would be tyrants if they could. If particular care and attention is not paid to the ladies, we are determined to foment a rebellion, and will not hold ourselves bound by any laws in which we have no voice or representation.”

Did the 1st Lady really threaten that there would be a rebellion against the government? Did she really state that the laws of the government do not apply to women if they don’t have a voice? This was the forefront of giving women a right to vote! How is that not exciting! Alas, to a 1st grader, receiving a penny from the Abe Lincoln character was more thrilling.
My daughter had to research what Adams would have worn, what her childhood was like, what made her famous, and what contributions she made to history. Not only did she need to complete an essay about Adams, but she also had to come up with a costume and be prepared to answer questions as if she was Adams. She even researched whether or not Adams spoke in an ‘English’ accent. This made learning exciting and it resonated with the 8th graders. I believe it hit the mark with the younger kids as well.
I have to give it up to the teacher for encouraging her class to get to know someone from our US history. Rather than simply teaching by the text book, taking the tests, or writing the occasional essay, this teacher recognized the opportunity for the kids to truly learn about an individual who made a difference in US history. I hope that other teachers can take note of this type of teaching – finding fun and unique ways of teaching our kids about those who helped shape this nation.

I would have liked to see the parade of US figures walking down the street today – “Abigail” was also accompanied by Susan B. Anthony, Abe Lincoln, George Washington, Betsy Ross, George Washington Carver, John Adams, Sacagawea, Martin Luther King Jr., and many others. That would have been a sight to see…

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