Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Colonial America - Walk Back In Time

When I visited Colonial Williamsburg with a group of Jeffco teachers back in 2009, we took a walk along a bridge that contained a collection of plaques identifying dates and statements that would offer the viewer a sense of historical context.  For example, one said...

 1820's - You cannot travel overland more than 70 miles in a day.

There were a total of 12 plaques extending from the 18th Century to the 1980's.  
VIEW Document with Plaque Images.  (These are my personal photos taken at Colonial Williamsburg.  Feel free to use in any way to support instruction.)

I imagined using these plaques with 5th graders, the grade that frequently studies early American History throughout the United States.  5th graders struggle with their sense of time, and I thought to myself, "These plaques could be a great way to help kids connect with the past." When their sense of time is confined to the last 11 years, this provides the opportunity to walk back in time, just as was intended by Colonial Williamsburg.  

Within instruction, images of the plaques might be used at the start of a study to help students develop the concept of Chronology.  By placing the events on a timeline, students can be given guidance related to skills, such as, "Students will be able to determine critical attributes of a timeline."  Teachers can also engage students in discussion related to how historians use timelines to record people, events, and ideas.  Instructionally, after placing all of the events from the plaques on the timeline, students might be encouraged to place additional comments extending from the 1980's to the present (mirroring those on these plaques).  Some students might also enjoy the challenge of adding details from the beginning of the 18th century to the present.  There are definitely tons of options for extending the learning so students further develop their sense of time and Chronology.

Last, I can also see how these plaques can be used to help students develop the concept of Continuity and Change Over Time.  With each plaque, students could evaluate the statement to identify how things have changed and how things have stayed the same (of course, students will probably need support to begin thinking this way).

1820's - You cannot travel overland more than 70 miles in a day.
How have things stayed the same?

  • We still travel overland.
  • Most people travel overland less than 70 miles in a day driving to work.
  • People travel to destinations for particular reasons.

How have things changed?

  • People travel over land, over water, and even underground on trains and subways.
  • To travel 70 miles in a day is easy, and people will sometimes travel much greater distances over land in a day.  
  • Roads are not dirt, they're smoother for travel due to concrete and blacktop.

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