Thursday, February 13, 2014

Georgia Researches Abigail Adams


Fifth grade at our local school is different from every other year.  Up until fifth grade, school is really a place to learn academics, practice getting along with others, figure out how to keep a schedule.... everything is all happy and hunky-dorey until fifth grade arrives and suddenly the student finds him/herself with an endless stream of art projects (masquerading as history and science assignments), endless "Bond Quickly Before You Are Thrown To The Wolves In Middle School"-type special events followed by a quick, five-minute instruction on how to organize a binder and take notes.  

If I were designing a fifth grade curriculum, I'd throw out the art projects and spend just a tad more time teaching those ever-so-important organizational and study skills.  And I'm pretty sure all parents would applaud me.  It's not that I don't see the value in an occasional art project, it's just when they occur every week and I find myself at Michael's Craft store once again spending my Mini Cooper fund on art supplies for my child, that I start to grumble.

For the last three weeks, Georgia has been working on her big colonial project for social studies class.  The assignment is to pick a topic that interests you, do some research (but don't bother to write any of it down or keep any sort of bibliography - we'll just expect the kids to learn all that by osmosis next year) and create a model or a poster which relates to your field of study.

Georgia wanted to do her project on a woman in the American Revolution and she was completely uninterested in writing about Betsy Ross (our school's only concession to Women in the Revolution - a subject so vast that I took an ENTIRE college course on the subject, but hey, who am I to suggest a little gender equality in our academics?).  Instead, Georgia chose the very interesting, uber-feminist Abigail Adams (click on these words to read more about this choice).

Georgia started her project on the internet:



Before moving on to the tea bags.


Wait, what?

Georgia decided to do an oral presentation (which she wrote on her computer, citing absolutely no sources - see above).  But she also made a visual component - a replica of Abigail Adam's desk with a copy of the letter that Abigail wrote to her husband John about being sure to specifically mention equal rights for women when he wrote the constitution.  


And in order to make an authentic-looking copy of Abigail's letter, you need to use thick paper which you will then use a sponge to cover with strong tea so it looks really old. 



Voila:


But that's not all.  To make the letter look REALLY ancient, you have to burn the edges a little bit using a match:



The final product looked pretty darn good.  


Georgia used double-sided tape to secure the letter to her "wooden" desk (which was really a poster board covered in a wood grain wrapping paper) and she glued a feather dipped in black ink on the side.  


Georgia also taped an ink well to the board as an added bonus.

See?


I thought Georgia's project looked great and I thought her oral presentation was well-written.  

I helped Georgia bring both items into school on their due date.  

Every fifth grader was buzzing around in excitement.  Everyone had been talking about their projects for days and were eager to show them off.

I only saw a handful, but I was impressed by most.  I didn't see a single one that looked like a parent had completely taken it over and that's a good thing - but later at dinner (when I shared this fact with Gordy), Georgia told me that the ones that had obviously been done by adults were in the library and that's why I didn't see them.

Here is Georgia's friend Ally's handwritten Declaration of Independence:



Yep.  She copied that thing by HAND all by herself.  I even watched her do some of it the other day when I was picking Georgia up from a play date.

I also saw this model of Benjamin Franklin, which at first I thought was a ridiculous example of parental over achievement, but then I noticed it's actually one of those architect mannequins wearing a home-made outfit which was obviously child-created.


I also admired this replica of the Liberty Bell:


And this homemade cabin made out of ginger bread and wheat chex....


and one project on the history of quilt-making which I thought was pretty spiffy:


Georgia should only have three or four more projects left in elementary school.  We'll all breathe a sigh of relief when they are over.  And then we'll just have to hope that she doesn't get on the "project" team in 6th grade! 

3 comments:

Guymons said...

Bradley just finished a biography report....he's in 8th grade...so no art project added, just the report....but he had NO idea how to do the bibliography(now called "work cited") but there is a website now....bibme.com or net or org....which DOES IT FOR THEM!!!!!!!!!!! Totally cool! They just enter in the info, so easy!
I'm up watching USA hockey...is Gordy, also?

Guymons said...

and Georgia's project looks GREAT! Very creative and I bet she learned a lot.

You are right on the needing to learn organization and that kind of stuff...maybe they will learn that in jr high

Martha said...

Diane - I've heard of that website! What a great idea. Henry has to cite EVERYTHING now (which is a good ting). He's in 8th grade also. We've been watching the olympics on replay. Sadly, Gordy is at work. The girls and I are home since it's another snow day but Henry had school. I'm sure the tv will be turned on eventually - it always does on snow days!

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