I always hated history in school, and even into college, I thought it was the most boring subject. I knew the basics of our country,but to be honest, I didn’t really have a buy-in or a true care.
Most of this changed when I was involved in a federally funded grant program called, “The Teaching American History” program. Once per month, a group of teachers from our local counties in Western new York got together with local historians at various museums and historical locations around our area to simply talk history.
We discussed content mostly, but we also discussed how we could engage kids in history; to truly make them think and love what they were learning. Each of the three summers I was involved with the TAH grant program, we took a week-long trip to discover more of our nation’s history. One summer we went to Washington D.C., and another summer we went to Boston.
Over the course of the three years I was involved, we made connections like I had never done before. The network we built still exists today, as we all borrow resources and share ideas, and more importantly, we all teach the TRUTH about history. There are so many times that what we think is true and what we have been taught in school isn’t quite the truth. It’s stretched to say the least. I try my hardest to let my kids create their own opinions.
One example of that is Christopher Columbus. We have a day off, he must be a good guy, right? Well, maybe not so much. A lesson I am doing with my kids soon has them reading an article from both points of view. One discussing why Columbus should be regarded as a hero, and the other questioning why we have the day off to begin with. Students will then read the lyrics to a song called, “Don’t Drink the Water,” by the Dave Matthews Band, which discusses through perfect metaphor just what explorers like Columbus (and even people today) have done to Native American groups. Students will then answer questions with a partner about the content they have read. As a final follow up to this lesson, students will write an essay using evidence from all three texts answering the question of whether they believe Columbus should be regarded as a hero or a villain.
This is what I have learned over the course of the last 8 years teaching….having kids form opinions and making a claim is so much more rewarding, and so much more powerful for the kids.
How do you teach the TRUTH about history?? I would love to hear your thoughts and ideas!