Interdisciplinary Activities With Historical Records
This section provides a range of suggestions for classroom activities on local educational history. They vary in level and complexity, and they can be altered or expanded to meet special needs. The kinds of historical records that might be used for each activity are suggested, along with basic procedures, and follow-up activities.
1. The History of Our School Historical resources: all those mentioned previously.
Students can research and write a complete history of their school. It may be useful to involve more than one class in this project. Each class could research developments relating to a separate decade or topic. Students can "publish" the history in the school newspaper. The local newspaper may be willing to publish the results of student research, or the local historical society might assist in a special publication.
- Use the research as a basis for a theatrical production showing vignettes from various decades.
- Prepare a photographic and documentary exhibit on the school's history. 3. Have secondary school students write and illustrate the school's history for elementary students.
2. “A Day in the Life” Historical resources: Class lists, class schedules, old textbooks, tests, and curricula.
Have each student assume the identity of a person on a class list from an earlier time. Students might then research the life of young people at that time, and construct a typical identity for themselves. Using old textbooks and assignments, conduct a one-hour class following methods characteristic of the chosen period. A variation of this approach is to have students in small groups research different historical periods and present lessons characteristic of their period with one student acting as teacher, the rest as students.
- Have students list the advantages and disadvantages of the educational methodology from the earlier period.
- Ask students to discuss or write an essay on the similarities and differences between the earlier period and their own school experience.
- Imagining they are students or teachers from the earlier period, students may write or make an oral presentation on their perceptions of schools today.
3. Educational Issues Debate Historical resources: School Board minutes, student newspapers.
Review School Board minutes and student newspapers to identify controversial issues and problems. Divide students into small groups, assigning each an issue. After research and development of arguments, the group can conduct debates or present small group views on those issues.
- Discuss with students why certain issues were of importance in specific historical periods, and how the concerns reflected larger social issues of that era.
- Have students imagine they were in school at the time of the issue researched, and ask them to write their thoughts on the issue covered in the debate. As an alternative, assign small groups to compose a dialogue among students reflecting their reaction to the issue and to act it out.
4. “This is Your Life” Historical resources: Class lists, yearbooks, grade cards, theme books, School Board minutes.
Have each student assume the identity of a student, a teacher, a school administrator, or a School Board member. Based on the resources indicated above, have the student compile the maximum factual information on that person.
- Assign each student to create a "This is Your Life" scrapbook biography of the person researched.
- Using the researched information, have students make an audio tape of the person's recollections about his or her involvement with the school.
5. “Who Was There?” Historical resources: Class lists, attendance records, census records.
A variety of statistical data may be compiled from these resources. For example, student enrollment figures can be compiled over a number of years. These figures can be summarized in a student enrollment time line. Students can check attendance patterns and can determine seasonal fluctuations.
- Have students compare student statistics to overall population statistics, such as the State or Federal census schedules, for their community. Discuss whether they show similar patterns of change.
- Identify major historical and social developments (such as wars, depression) on the time lines. Discuss the possible implication of these events on the student enrollment figures.
6. “Don't Do That!” Historical resources: School Board minutes, rules and regulations, student handbooks.
Assign groups of students to compile information on school rules and discipline over a series of decades, including the present one. Groups can then make lists for each decade and post on a bulletin board for comparison.
- Choose recent decades for investigation, and have students conduct oral interviews with people who went to school during the assigned period. Ask about their perceptions of the rules, and of the discipline methods used.
- Put the rules and discipline in the context of their historical period and discuss with students why they may have seemed appropriate in that time period.
- Have students compare and contrast past disciplinary procedures with those in effect today.
7. “What Did You Learn in School Today?” Historical resources: Curriculum, report cards, yearbook.
Assign each group of students a grade level. Ask them to track the subjects taught or required for that level over a series of decades.
- Have students chart the course changes, then discuss their possible causes.
- In addition to course lists, have students compile and reproduce sample class assignments, then mount and exhibit them in the school. This could be done a decade at a time over the course of a school year.
8. “Welcome to the Club” Historical resources: Personal paper collections, oral histories, yearbooks.
Have students assemble information on school clubs in past years. Discuss the reason such clubs existed, and their attraction to students.
- Ask students to organize some of the activities sponsored by previous clubs such as debating societies, theater groups, musical groups, or others that interest them.