Tuesday, March 21, 2017

#OER Week! Day 4: Working Backwards in History to Save Jamestown

Several years ago, I read an article online about a history professor who taught his class in reverse.  His American History to 1877 seminar ended with Reconstruction.  But, unlike most courses that run chronologically from PreColumbian America to Reconstruction, he started with the result and worked through the web of actions that led to that point in time.

It was a fascinating read and an intellectually pleasing daydream, but I didn't see it as even remotely possible in a middle or high school classroom.  Over the last year, however I've started toying with the idea and trying to figure out the mechanics of a course orientation like that.  Like a responsible adult, and completely out of character for me, I didn't dive into the deep end, opting instead to dip a toe in the pool of possibility.  I thought I might try reorienting just one unit.  I chose Jamestown.

I love teaching Jamestown but, despite my best efforts, we always get stuck in the Starving Time.  Students love the rotten bits of history (as do I, to be completely honest) and that's all they remember about England's first successful, sustained colony in America...oh, and Pocahontas.

This year, acknowledging defeat, I started with the winter of 1609-1610 and the skull of "Jane" and challenged students to figure out why seemingly well-adjusted individuals turned to the cannibalism of a 14 year old girl.  They then had to propose solutions to save "Jane" and the other settlers in Virginia.

Day 4 Resources

Bring your bib tomorrow because I'm throwing a Revolutionary dinner party!
Stay hungry, 

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