Thursday, March 2, 2017

Students Creating for Students: The Walking Tour of Revolutionary Boston Project

I was fortunate enough to create a new course for this year called "History Lab!".  Our STEM teacher and I pitched the idea to our principal and she loved it.  We wanted to experiment with combining the STEM fields and the humanities to teach American history.  History Lab! was offered this year as a kind of honor's course, which required students to fill our an application and obtain teacher recommendations.  Below is a presentation we've given at a couple of conferences about our approach and a little about what the students do.

"History Lab!" History with STEM at the Core MOREnet Conference 2016 from mshomakerteach

This post, however, is about a project our History Lab! kids just finished that we call "The Walking Tour of Revolutionary Boston".  All of my students are currently covering the causes that led to the American Revolution; History Lab! and my general American history classes.  One of my big goals this year is to train students to do the work of history instead of just memorizing facts and I wanted my History Lab! kids to get down and dirty with Boston in the years before the American Revolution.

So, rather than just analyzing primary sources, taking some notes, and tackling some DBQ's (all of which we did), I asked the students to create an activity that would teach their peers about revolutionary Boston.  I left the format open and asked them what they would like to do.  One option that came up was QR codes, so we talked it out until we had a plan.  They would take the other 7th graders on a tour of Boston through pictures, videos, primary sources, interviews, etc. facilitated by QR codes.

I typed up this Google doc to provide some basic guidelines, but most of what was included and how it was presented was left up to my History Lab! students.
The kids loved the idea of creating something for their peers and put a lot of work into the final product.  One of the conditions surrounding the creation of this product was a fast deadline: three days.  History Lab! researched their assigned topic, located primary and secondary sources in a variety of formats, made QR codes, and edited it all together into one massive Google doc that I printed, divided into sections, and hung up around the school.

                                          The planning phase

Students also created a couple of questions to accompany each topic and help their peers help make sense of what they were seeing.  They even put them together in a handy guidebook.

                                                           The guidebook cover

I asked the hours that "took the tour" what they liked and disliked about the activity.  They said they liked: the variety of sources, interesting topics and mostly interesting information, the questions (one student said she liked that she actually had to think to get the answer), and the opportunity to move around.  They disliked: the number of QR codes, the fact that two QR codes took them to the same place, one QR code didn't work, and some complained about all the answers to one part of the tour being on one source.

Overall, History Lab! got high praise and created a pretty good assignment.  We reviewed today and the other classes referenced things they learned on the walking tour.  I told the them they would get to design something for History Lab! and they've already begun plotting.

I have a list of things to change if I do this again, but am proud of my History Lab! kids for what they accomplished.  This is an easy way to incorporate place into the classroom, as well as encourage students.  If you would like anymore information about the project, including assignment sheets, handouts, and sources, please comment below and I would glad to share what I have with you.

Until next time,

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