Saturday, December 6, 2014

Fourth Grade Historians

The fourth graders began the Vermont History Unit this week. This week's focus was on learning about the job of a historian and starting to notice the change and continuity in Vermont using artifacts. It was a really exciting few days.
 We started the week focusing on the job of a historian. Ask you child what a historian does and why they do it, I am sure they will be able to give you an earful. To make this more meaningful to the students, we covered the room with old artifacts spanning the generations of Vermont's history. Thank you so much to Mrs. Susan Moore for bringing in all sorts of old family gems. After becoming familiar with the job of a historian and why the study the past, the students were given post it notes and told to roam the room exploring. They were given the instruction to write down any questions that they might have about the items they were looking at. The students spent the next half hour exploring, talking, examining, and most important, thinking.  When we gathered back together they had a million questions of the items. They were very thoughtful and had wonderful predictions based on what the items looked like or how they moved.
On day two, students were given access to this amazing website that offers thousands of old photos of Vermont. They had a task to begin looking at the photos as historians, trying to find clues to how things were during the time of the photo. Students began noticing the details. Some of my favorite comments from this activity:
   "The houses have more windows! Maybe they needed them because they didn't have electricity."
   " The women are wearing this think around their neck that look like they choke them."
   " Why do all the men have big bushy beards?"
As you can see, their minds were racing with questions.

On day three, the class was given multiple old maps of Vermont. They ranged from 1774 to the late 1800s.  They had a task to look and find the similarities and differences in the maps. I explained that Vermont hasn't always looked exactly as it does today. They were told to pay close attention to the towns, counties, boundaries, spellings of names, etc. They dove in and began noticing some fascinating things. Every discovery brought up new questions and more predictions. "How come on this map it says it is New York?" "How come this map says it is the Province of New Hampshire?" They were so into this activity that they didn't come close to finishing. They will have more time on Monday to finish.

Next week we will shift our focus to building a general timeline of the Eras of Vermont. Students will each get to study one of the six eras and share their findings with the rest of the class. We will put together their work to create a giant timeline of the History of Vermont.

Here are some photos of the Artifact Walk the students took on Monday.

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