In most schools, getting kids to care about history is a losing battle, but at Autumn Creek Elementary School, they're winning the war - by reliving it.
The fifth graders walk into their classrooms and step back into history taking on the roles of early English colonists determined to make a new life in America. In lieu of stale lectures and pop quizzes, students now take part in an elaborate simulation incorporating technology, Thoughtful Classroom techniques and imagination that has them making many of the tough choices faced by the colonists who helped found the thirteen colonies. No detail is left to chance, and every kid plays a role.
Benjamin Franklin once said “Tell me and I will forget. Teach me and I may remember. Involve me and I learn.” This thought is at the heart of what the 5th grade teachers at Autumn Creek are trying to do with their different simulations.
Ken Joslin, a fifth grade teacher said, “We want students to do more than just read about history, we want them to live it, to experience it on not just an intellectual level, but also on an emotional level.” “Doing simulations like this produces a love of history, an appreciation of history, and to me, that is big and it needs to be done," he said.
The simulation consists of three parts. In the first part, students use technology to explore England’s first permanent colony, Jamestown, and then form their own colony companies and prepare to establish their own colony in the New World. The second part of the simulation takes part on a ship as the colonists voyage across the Atlantic. Each classroom is taped into “cabins” of the same size passengers on the Mayflower would have had. During this week, students learn about the perilous journey and are introduced to the problem solving aspect of the simulation. In the final part of the simulation, colony companies have made it to the New World and now they must earn a profit, while dealing with the manifold dangers of an untamed America, including interacting with the natives.
But don’t take my word for it; here is what some of the students think about the experience so far:
Alexa: “I liked that we got real cabins like they did on the trip and that we actually experience some of the stuff that they did.”
Gerio: “I like that you never know what’s going to happen. I also liked how dangerous the random encounters are.
Mike: “I like being able to live out the adventure. It helped me understand life in the early 1600’s.”
Nia: “I like that we determine our fate and that we get our own cabin.”