Not Teaching To the Test:  A Living History

Much of education lately is focused on improving test scores and teaching to the test that when I come across something that doesn't it is quite refreshing.  

Kaitie, my seventeen year old daughter is in the midst of a "Living History Project." Each student in her history class is interviewing elderly people in the community, learn their story, and connect their story to what was going on during a specific period of history. To demonstrate understanding, students will create a video, and write a paper. 

Kaitie has chosen to interview our neighbors across the street.  Across the street live 100 year old Fred and his bride, Margaret who is a mere 98 years.  If I did my math right, they have been married for 74 years. With the help of their son, Fred Junior, they still live in their house.  Fred was a pilot who started flying airplanes when he was sixteen years old.  Margret has been his constant helpmate and so much more.  Fred flew airplanes in World War II while Margaret kept the home fires burning.  She is a college graduate, who went to school with Billy Graham, and is still amazingly sharp and animated.  They have quite a rich story to tell and I can't wait to see the video Kaitie will create.  
As I helped Kaitie set up garage band to record one of the interviews with Margret I was honored to visit with both Fred and Margaret. I especially enjoyed hearing some of Fred's aviation stories since I am the son of a Vietnam Era fighter pilot.  I was struck by lives which have been lived well and experienced much.  And when Kaitie got home she told me we all should go over and just sit and listen to them tell stories. 
What a wonderful learning experience for my daughter, and frankly for all of her classmates.  Her teacher, Joe DeRosa, is bridging gaps between today's youth and the elderly.  The students are learning history first hand instead of just from a book.  They are learning that with age, comes great wisdom.  And maybe, most of all, they are learning the value of community and connection to our past.  
I applaud Joe for thinking outside the box, for not just teaching to the test, and providing a rich, deep experience for his students.  

2 Responses

  1. I LOVED reading this post. I am a seventh grade history teacher who recently "flipped." I cannot express how needed it is within our subject area to get away from the book. Year after year I hear how "boring" history is. I'm trying to do a combination of flipping and project based learning (seems to be working so far). I would definitely consider something akin to the project described here. I'm glad to see history finally joining hte many disciplines realizing that real world, project based learning is so much more beneficial than reading a text book!

  2. Katrin,Your comments seem to ieridnctly support the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning, as Mount Royal has defined it (studying your own students’ learning). One problem with educational research is that it often seen as not applying to an individual faculty member’s classroom it is easy to think you’re different or special or that another researcher could not possibly understand how to teach in your own field, and therefore the research doesn’t apply to you until you actually sit down and systematically analyze what is going on in your own classroom. SoTL may have the power to better inform teachers, as well as to elevate the status of scholarly teaching since it results in publication. But of course, that’s only if it’s done well What do you think?Janice

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