I’ve Never Been More Excited

My enthusiasm for this project cannot be understated. History Fair is going to be an amazing experience for the kids. Allow me to post the blog-of-all-blogs to give you some reasons why.

I love history. Exploring interesting tid-bits about Chicago, discovering the history of my family, and finding out what’s right under my nose is compelling, to me. (I used a classic Blues Brothers scene – filmed just a few miles from where I grew up! – to my subsequent interest in dead malls and how they negatively impact communities as an example). I want that to rub off on kids. I teach enthusiastically, make learning hands-on, and meaningful. I think that works, but History Fair is going to take this to an entirely different level.

Here’s an overview of the program from Pete Harbison, the man who runs this show State-wide:

Basically, the students identify an event (this year’s theme is “Revolution, Reaction and Reform!“) in Illinois or Chicago history to do research on. Almost any topic can be traced to these themes. From there, students create a question to drive their research, collect information, and explore. When students believe they have formed an opinion or found an answer, they construct a display, write a paper, produce a documentary, perform an original work, or create a website to show what they have learned.

To be honest, this isn’t much different from what we already do in my class. However, History Fair takes it a step further. In March, we’ll hold a science-fair style fair to show our classmates (and hopefully community) what we have learned. Superior projects will get to attend the Chicago Metro History Fair in April, and, hopefully, a few get to make it to Springfield at the state-level competition! Finally: we get to show EVERYONE what amazing little historians we have. My competitiveness is piqued, and I know that Lakeview has remarkable students. I’m determined to let the state know this as well.

Here are some examples of work that was done last year:

And this was done by a student named Lina. It advanced to Nationals (Washington DC, June).

Most importantly, what will students learn? Aside from becoming experts on this, they’ll become better researchers, more confident, and more organized. Listen to Lina describe what she learned:

As we’re starting something new, all I’m asking for is patience. This is something entirely new, and I have a lot to learn about it. I was literally sitting in a meeting 24 hours ago when I realized “this is it.” Total epiphany. I’ll be exploring topics with the kids over the next month or two, helping guide them towards success. I encouraged them to discuss what family history might be interesting, but that isn’t necessary. We won’t begin full-fledged research until after the Constitution Unit, and won’t construct until after Christmas. All research and work will be done in class, and fit into our Illinois and Chicago history unit. It’s absolutely perfect for us.

And lastly, one thought: want to contribute to the list of possible ideas? I threw just a few down that I can think of. I will continue to add ideas to it, but PLEASE, feel free to add your own. As we discussed in class, history is a matter of perspective: where you stand gives you a different view than the others. I certainly can’t think of it all, so please add what you think the kids would be interested in! Click here to add and edit a Google Doc. I’ll take care of organizing and cleaning it up later.  Let’s share some ideas and collaborate – we DO ask the kids to do it, so why not everyone?!

And to end, why not some Jake & Elwood?!

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