Learning History By Writing Storybooks in Grade 6

Nov 15, 2017 | All School, Fine Arts, Humanities, Lower School News, Middle School News

Contributed by: Tarrik Mabon, “Coach T”
Over the past month my Grade 6 students participated in a PBL (Project Based Learning) assignment involving the four early river valleys which are Mesopotamia, Egypt, India, and China. Their challenge was to educate students in the Lower School on that topic, through a fictional children’s storybook. This was an interdisciplinary effort as I collaborated with Mrs. Maggie Menkus (Literature) and Mrs. Jayne Liu (Grammar).
Mrs. Menkus focused on the plot-lines and consistency of the stories, while Mrs. Liu focused on grammar and I focused on the historical context of each book.
From a historical perspective, the students were challenged to include the five features of a civilization:
– Complex Religion
– Cities
– Arts and Architecture
– Social Classes
– Public Works
In addition to writing their storybooks, students also had the responsibility of creating a 3D model to represent one of the early river valleys. As a result, we saw various structures such as the Great Wall of China, Pyramids of Giza, a Sarcophagus, Hanging Gardens of Babylon and the Sphinx. 
It was amazing to see how focused, creative and productive the kids were, once I removed all reigns and supervised from a distance for about three and a half weeks – allowing them to work on their own without interruption.
Once their storybooks and 3D models were complete, students read their stories to various classes. Some read their stories to Mr. Leflar’s grade 8 History (Conflict) class to receive feedback on their plot, presentation and 3D models.  Others read their stories to students in the Lower School (Mrs. Whitehead’s Kindergarten class and Ms. Goodell’s grade 2 class).  It was amazing to see how fascinated the students in the audiences were about the stories and the 3D models. To me, this is Mount Vernon at its best, when we can blur the lines, allowing students to combine thoughts, activities, and disciplines, to work together toward a common goal.
I absolutely love PBLs because students get to learn while also being creative and doing something fun. Having a known product at the end of the unit gives them something to look forward to and to be excited about. It is a GREAT learning method and I am so happy we encourage it at Mount Vernon.