History from Things: Making the Past Meaningful to Students
Meaningful learning is achieved when students are empowered to construct their own relevant interpretations of the past. Recent research in the field of elementary education reveals that:
- meaningful learning requires active engagement with the subject matter;
- students respond best to multiple forms of information, including visual representations and objects which can be handled;
- students bring the past into their spheres of understanding by building connections to what they already understand. Thus, for students to find relevance and meaning in the past, the people of the past must become real to them.
History from Things kits allow students to assemble visual, material, written, and contextual evidence pertaining to North Carolina’s Paleoindian, Archaic, Woodland, Mississippian/Late Woodland, Historic, and Modern periods. Activities and lessons encourage them to evaluate and interpret this evidence within a narrative framework in which they define their own reasons for wanting to discover what life was like for people living in North Carolina during earlier times. As they build historical knowledge, students also practice critical thinking and written and oral communication skills.