In the Classroom- Modern World History

I recently had the opportunity to step into a Trench Warfare Simulation in a 10th grade Modern World History class. As I walked into the room, I found the tables turned on their sides and students throwing paper balls at each other. What started as an initial observation of student mutiny quickly turned into an observation of profound student learning. 
 
Students in Mr. Barker-Hook’s class were learning about trench warfare in World War I and its human cost. To help students grasp what happened, he turned his classroom into a mini battlefield with an attacking army trying to cross “No Man’s Land” to reach the opposing trench. Students were asked to move at a speed that would be the equivalent of running across the battlefield, yet no matter the rules put in place to help the attackers, they could not make it across.  
 
Through the simulation, students could feel the hopelessness that most soldiers felt as they charged across the battlefield. Students shared that even though it was a simulation and people were using paper balls, they still felt anxiety and fear when trying to cross “No Man’s Land.” They also began to question the purpose of the strategy and dove into the human impact, which is well documented by the History Channel in their series, Life in the Trenches of World War I
 
Simulations are a powerful learning tool. There has been an increase in the use of simulations by medical and nursing schools through multi-million dollar investments in specialized simulation classrooms because it gives students experience beyond the textbook. A 2016 National Institute of Health study showed that simulations were very useful in understanding how students will react in the face of stress, as well as to reinforce what they have learned in class. It is a particularly effective learning model for high school history classes because it allows students to build an emotional connection to historical events and to experience a small degree of what it may have felt like to live through those times. More importantly, it gives students the opportunity to practice taking the perspective of those who experienced these events. By experiencing events themselves “first-hand,” students are able to think about history in a more profound way. 

MLK Resources

This past Friday during dinner we asked our Kindergartner the same question we do every night, “What is something you learned today at school?” Usually he hems and haws on the question, but he quickly told us that he learned about Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr and Rosa Parks. We did not hesitate and told him we would love to hear what he learned about them.

Our son then took the next ten minutes to tell us the stories he learned about King and Parks, sharing stories about their childhood, what inspired them, what they did, and how they wanted everyone to be treated equal. I have to admit, we were proud parents. The conversation then shifted to why. He wanted to know why people would not treat everyone nicely or why some people are not treated the same as others. Our five year old was clearly upset by some of the ideas.

We left our dinner feeling inspired that our child had the opportunity to learn about King and Parks, bus boycotts, and Freedom Riders and the importance of the their stories.

In honor of Martin Luther King, Jr Day, I wanted to share a few resources that may be helpful for children of different ages:

Grades PK-5

I am Martin Luther King, Jr by Brad Meltzer

I am Rosa Parks by Brad Meltzer

Martin’s Big Words: The Life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr by Doreen Rappaport

Grades 6-8

Through My Eyes by Ruby Bridges

Generation Fix: Young Ideas for a Better World by Elizabeth Rusch

We are Immigrants: Voices of The Immigrant Experience by Thomas Hoobler

Turning 15 on the Road to Freedom: My Story of the 1965 Selma Voting Rights March by Elspeth Leacock

Anne Frank: Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank

Grades 9-12

Anne Frank: Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank

My Life with Martin Luther King, Jr by Coretta Scott King

Dear Martin by Nic Stone

I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter by Erika L. Sánchez

Freedom Riders: 1961 and the Struggle for Racial Justice by Raymond Arsenault