Making history accessible

With Guest Blogger Hannah Lewis | Intro by Kathy Johnson

“Why won’t these dates stick in my head. What’s wrong with me? I won’t remember these events even two weeks from now so what is the point?

I remember thinking these exact words in high school while trying to memorize a list of American history dates and events for a test.

• 1863 Abraham Lincoln issues the Emancipation Proclamation
• 1865 The 13th Amendment outlaws slavery
• 1867 The U.S. buys Alaska from Russia

Fast forward 40 years. Memorizing dates and events is not very compatible with our new knowledge of how the brain actually works. Our brains are exquisitely hard-wired for stories and interesting narratives with context. Our brains work on gathering and connecting ideas and we naturally look for patterns. We remember things that can stick to something we already know.  The design of the spring ninth grade history research project is brain-friendly because it required students to connect and see patterns between events and concepts over time–the very essence of history.  I’ll let Hannah Lewis explain it in her own words:

Doing this project was incredibly interesting to me however it was somewhat difficult. My topic was the foundations of democracy.  Because it is a concept that I had to trace overtime and not an actual event or historical activity it turned out to be a little more difficult. However, this topic was something I’ve always been very interested in. I really enjoy learning about democracy, and especially how it has affected the world. I learned that democracy is one of the most coveted forms of government because it gives everyone freedom of speech and the freedom to vote for people who represent their interests.

The research process started out slow but once I got further along I found the process incredibly helpful. We started out by having to collect at least 10 note cards with notes pertaining to our topic. When it came time write our outlines, and then ultimately our papers, it went smoothly and quickly. I had all of the information I needed, perfectly organized and prepared for the final project.

By breaking the project up into small pieces, I was prepared with all of the information I needed for my paper. During the whole process, our history teacher continued to have us question our topics so we could better understand what we were researching. T his helped us develop our ideas to the fullest. This I feel is one of the best ways to teach history. We had good conversations and we continually questioned what we were learning.  This helped us to understand what we were learning and made us think about how it could apply to our daily lives.

I think the best way to maybe to improve this research project would be to give a better calendar of future due dates and events so we would could possibly get ahead or understand better what will be happening in the future of the research paper. Otherwise I really enjoyed this project, I got to learn and investigate a political concept that I’m very interested in: democracy.

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