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Union Elementary students enjoy ‘living museum’

Samerian DaBose, 11, a fifth grader at Union Elementary School, portrays Sacagawea, a Shoshone woman who accompanied the Lewis and Clark Expedition between 1804 and 1806. DaBose and approximately 72 Union Elementary School fifth-graders took part in a “living museum” portraying historic figures. Also pictured are, from left, Charlotte Brown and Blair Austin, (standing), fifth-grade teachers at Union Elementary who helped organize the event.

Elementary students at Union Elementary School recently spoke with important historical figures from US history during a “Living Museum” at the school.

Blair Austin, a fifth-grade teacher at the school who helped organize the event, said the living museum fits nicely into their unit of study on biographies and with the Social Studies curriculum. “Every fifth-grade student is involved,” she said, noting that there are approximately 72 fifth graders at Union Elementary.

Students chose a famous person who lived between 1700 and 1800s. “They each wrote a biography,” Austin said. “They could research online, research through books in the library or go to the public library, wherever they could get information about that person.”

Wearing costumes they made (with the help of the teachers), students had to pretend to be the historical figure they researched. As other students walked past, these “historical figures” talked about their life.

To prepare for the museum, students were required to write a biography and make or find some type of artifact to show during the museum exhibit. “They can make it or find something and bring it in,” Austin said. “We have everything from deer pelts and collectible coins to dioramas (shoe box scenes). Anything that associates with their person.”

Fifth grader Riley Hovick, 11, who portrayed Betsy Ross, made a replica of the first American flag that Ross sewed in June of 1776.

“Betsy Ross was a famous patriot who helped support her town,” Hovick said. “She designed the first American flag so it would not be like the flag of the British. I made this flag at home in about a day, with a little bit of help.”

Samerian DaBose, 11, a fifth grader portrayed Sacagawea, a Shoshone woman who accompanied the Lewis and Clark Expedition of the western United States between 1804 and 1806. DaBose told students how Sacagawea traveled with her infant son and husband, a French trapper named Toussaint Charbonneau.

Austin said one benefit of the museum is the variety of skills it teaches. Students utilize reading and writing, get experience in speaking and listening, and learn by viewing the students who portray the historic figures.

Students not only learn about the historical figures they researched, but they also improve their research skills and get experience using technology as a learning tool.

“They blogged to other students during the research process,” said Charlotte Brown, a fifth-grade teacher who also helped organize the museum. “The communication from that was very good, as was using the technology.”

Blogging is a tool in which students communicate via the Internet. Students in other classes who had chosen the same historic figure were paired with each other to work together during the research process. “What we really wanted to utilize technology, so we let them blog about their person,” Brown said. “They blogged back and forth with their partners, sharing information, thus adding another source of information for each student.”

Teachers monitored the communication between students and assisted when needed, as in the event students had difficulty finding information. 

Brown said the students’ and parents’ enthusiasm made all the hard work pay off. “The best part has been the enjoyment of the students because they learn at the same time, but in a fun way,” she said.

Written by: Deb Coates Bledsoe, Publications Coordinator
Posted: Apr 30, 2009 by Deb Coates Bledsoe

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