Earlier this year, the fifth grade embarked upon a great journey of discovery, literally. First, they were voyageurs, French Canadian explorers, and they rode in a canoe, cooked a meal they would eat, set up a trading post and read, wrote and lived their existence.
On Thursday, for their parents, and today for the rest of the Lower School, the fifth graders, in full colonial costume, showed off their knowledge of colonial America with the traditional Colonial Nights. It’s an extravaganza of learning in which everyone who attended came away with more knowledge about the era.
Led by fifth-grade teachers Therese Chouinard and Maureen Zamboni, the 41 students spent weeks creating a character who would have lived in colonial America. They created a story about why they left their native lands and how they came to the shores of a new land. They researched the trades of the era and chose one to become. There were tailors and blacksmiths and shipwrights and silversmiths and glass blowers and teachers and store owners and milliners and architects and more. They showed their research in well-prepared multi-media presentations (on ye olde iPad). Also included was a concert, an art display (of handmade clay pie steam-releasers made in art) and huge collaborative murals depicting the different groups of colonies.
And the project spilled over to Spanish class where fifth-graders learned of the Spanish influence on the colonies and compared the history, music, art and literature during the Spanish Colonial period.
In gym, they pretended they were onboard a ship and climbed the rigging, working together to save the ship. In science, they studied colonial scientists like Benjamin Franklin as they created their own science projects.
Because of this project, which every fifth grade for years has done, the colonial era becomes much more than dates and names in a textbook. It’s something that lives and happened to people like them and their parents and their grandparents, many of whom served as the inspiration for their colonial characters.
It’s a fun ride for the parents and students in other grades who saw the presentations and a journey toward greater understanding of our history and our world for the fifth graders.
And it’s not the last journey they’ll take this year: Later on, they’ll create wagon trains and travel west, using geography skills to determine the quickest, safest route, math to figure out how much weight their wagons can carry, and problem-solving skills to determine how far they can go each day. It’s another lesson in living history. Another lesson in the Curriculum for Understanding.
By Ron Bernas