Saturday, December 03, 2011

Awesome start to student heritage projects

After a month of preparation mixed in with the other things we do in Social Studies 10, my students are finally ready to present their Heritage Projects (blogged about 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 times now). Having learned from the past, I knew we had to start on Friday with a few students were very organized and inspiring. That way the rest of the class could home for the weekend, sulk for a bit, and then get to work on the last bits of their projects. As Akhil said "okay, that was good, but you set the bar way to high!" What a great start. First class, Travis and Jennifer fit the bill: thorough, engaging, and ready to go (I'll write about them soon). Erin led the next class off, with a tour of her diverse background, and some wonderful storytelling about tolerance of difference based on a story her grandmother shared with her. What made me very proud of Erin was that I often give her a hard time for procrastinating, so she was determined to go first for this project and prove me wrong. We finished the Friday round with a stunning presentation from Hailey. Her slideshow was modeled after a history book, mostly a British one at that, and she had incredible artifacts like the old hymnbook, journals, an unusual ring, and "the box" (shown above) to go with the slides. According to Hailey's family tradition, and the note included in the writing-box, this belonged to William Beatty, part of their family a number of generations back. He was the ship surgeon aboard Admiral Nelson's HMS Victory during the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805. Assuming this checks out, it is quite likely he used this fold out desk aboard the hosptial ship Sussex in 1806 to write his influential work on Nelson's death, something he was unable to prevent (he did the autopsy, though!). The box shows a few defects, and perhaps some more modern repairs, but is otherwise in fine condition. Hailey's mom brought it in to show us at lunch, and it wasn't long before the history buffs and wood enthusiasts among staff & students were gathered around and jumping in on the conversation. Our shop teachers had the veneer, joints, inlay, finish, and species figured out. Our Socials teachers had the Napoleonic struggle dialed in, with some speculation about how this major museum-worthy specimen ends up in a basement in Prince George. Where's the Antique Roadshow when you need them? Hailey also shared a leather-bound notebook with beautiful script from the 1890s belonging to her great-x2-grandfather, a chemist, containing recipes for tonics, ointments, and cure-alls. This was a journey into Victorian medicine ("maggot wash" was my favorite), a time when mercury, arsenic, opium, ground up bones, and all manners of herbs and spices could be had from the local apothecary. One more of the stories she shared was that of her great-great-grandparents who responded to the Laurier/Sifton "Last Best West" campaigns and came to Manitoba in 1911. Needless to say the process leading up to this day involved some cool learning for Hailey and others, for me, for a bunch of parents. The students are picking up skills related to historical empathy, critical thinking, resilient research, the themes of geography, judgement of evidence, strategic use of technology, and authentic presentation. It is amazing how excited students are when the learning is connected to both themselves and the threads of "social studies" that they identify as interesting and important. I'll try and keep up with blogging about some of the other presentations.

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