Last week, MNHP hosted a group of teachers from Livingston for an extremely successful lesson prototyping session. We began the day at the Jockey Hollow Visitor Center. Sarah, Tom and I answered questions and modeled the concept of prototyping.
This summer, I learned that being in a specific place helps tremendously when trying to come up with lessons and that is why we thought it would be a great idea to have teachers gather together to bounce ideas off of each other. During our time together, we visited sites at both Jockey Hollow and Washington’s Headquarters including: The Wick House and garden, soldiers’ huts, the Aqueduct Trail, the Ford Mansion and the Archives. Park staff joined us at each site to provide valuable background information and answer questions. At each stop, we took some time to explore the artifacts and sites, all the while coming up with ideas we could use to bring the content to life for our students. We brought “prototyping kits” to each site, as well. Each kit contained materials which served as inspiration to the group. For example, one box was called “Measurement” and contained rulers, a thermometer, tape measure, compass, etc.
One teacher used this kit to get a lesson idea about measuring the perimeter of the hut by first using string. Then, she took it a step further and added that the students could calculate the square footage and volume of the hut. Also, knowing there were 12 soldiers in a hut, she said the students could calculate the square footage per soldier. What a fabulous math connection! She even suggested that students plot out the amount of space each soldier had using tape on their classroom floor to get a sense of what it was like to be so confined. I was very impressed by how creative the group of teachers was. There were many great ideas that came out of the session that encompassed all grade levels and content areas. Some considered science and created lessons on the uses of plants, invasive vs. non-invasive species, and habitat studies. Others thought about the arts, and created lessons that explored things the soldiers did to keep busy such as art, music, singing, games, etc. I had been excited about all the lesson ideas I was collecting this all summer, but to see other teachers enthusiastic about the same thing, was my favorite part.
In all, between my ideas and those of the teacher participants, we developed over 50 lessons that can be used at the park! It is my hope that the educational programs at MNHP will continue to grow and that teachers will feel more comfortable with the resources and lesson options they have when bringing their classes here. I am also looking forward to continuing my relationship with the National Park Service and want to thank everyone who helped me with my Teacher Ranger Teacher project this summer: Sarah, Tom, Vanessa, Kevin, Tom, Jude and Joni.
This post by TRT, Ali Winka.