History as individual stalks of grass
Bob Edens had been blind since birth. Fifty-one years of darkness, sounds, smells and touch followed. But after a remarkable laser surgery, Bob can now see. For 51 years, Bob had imagined what things looked like based mainly on the descriptions of others.
I never would have dreamed that yellow is so . . . yellow. But red is my favorite color. I just can’t believe red.
Grass is something I had to get used to. I always thought it was just fuzz. But to see each individual green stalk – it’s like starting a whole new life. It’s the most amazing thing in the world to see things you never thought you’d see.
Sometimes I think we do this with kids. We tell them about history and have them read about history but we never let them experience history. They never get to actually “see” the individual people and events and details – students rely on us to describe those things for them. We forget that history is supposed to be a verb, not a noun.
So . . . how can we help our kids see history?
The Heath brothers book Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die has some interesting things to say about engaging learners. I especially like what they have to say about creating mystery and using emotional stories to suck kids into your content.
- Web sites like DocsTeach, Stanford’s History Education Group, TeachingHistory and Historical Scene Investigation provide hands-on kinds of stuff for kids to do.
- iPod and iPad apps like Rome: Virtual History, Civilization Revolution and Colonial Williamsburg give kids the chance to solve realistic problems and experience history first hand.
- Free online video games such as Minyanland, Real Lives and Mission US all support the brain’s need to solve emotional, real-life problems.
- If you’re gonna use a direct instructional tool like a lecture, lecture in ways that engage and involve kids in what’s going on. Simply talking at them is not going to work. Try a micro-lecture or interactive lectures.
We shouldn’t be trying to describe the individual grass stalks for our kids. They need to out playing on it.