It's not every day that students get to watch history be replayed right in front of them. However, for many James B. Conant High School juniors, the curriculum is brought to life by traveling back in time.
Students walked through a re-created colonial encampment from 1776, where they mingled with colonial citizens and asked questions about a time period they have simply read about in text books. The site of the re-created settlement was at Schaumburg's Spring Valley Nature Sanctuary.
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"The kids take what they have learned in the classroom after reading specific chapters, lectures, and secondary reading, so they can go into the colonial re-enactment knowing what's going on in Great Britain's 13 colonies in 1776," said social studies teacher David Wolf. "Students walk away with a unique experience."
The annual field trip allows roughly 450 Conant students studying American history or American studies to see what colonial life was like. On the field trip, students attend 10 different 12-minute sessions about various aspects of society. The "first-person" accounts are from several different key characters in the town, including a schoolteacher, Native American, linen merchant and innkeeper.
Before attending the session, students watched a video which introduced each of the characters, what they do, what their family life is like, and how they are affected by society in the year 1776. Once at the site, students get to see firsthand what they do. For instance, the character James Fairchild, the ropemaker, demonstrates how rope was made by hand in 1776 by allowing students to help him.
This unique field trip for Conant students was originated more than 20 years ago by Conant teacher Chuck Williams, who is now retired, and his wife. The field trip has been going strong since, and working with the Spring Valley Nature Center has proved to be a great site for the re-enactment that students get excited about.
Wolf said it's also a great tool to accompany the general curriculum because a lot of the information in an American history textbook is the elite history, meaning it focuses on major wars, presidents, and key figures. This re-enactment focuses on people and settlers living in 1776, and therefore is more localized and relatable, which strengthens ties between the student and information being taught.
"It's great because students apply everything they know at this hands-on field trip. It all comes together and helps our students make strong connections," Wolf said. "That's the thing about American History. You need to engage them. These field trips are engaging kids in learning."
• Watch the video: www.youtube.com/watch?v=vRmkIpCtaQs&feature=player_embedded