For teachers, the Maine Community Heritage Project can be a two-sided coin. On one side is total creative freedom (albeit with some attention to the Maine State Learning Results thrown in!) to integrate the MCHP in any way, shape, or form into one’s curriculum. On the other side is, uh… total creative freedom to integrate the MCHP… well, you get the idea. Freedom often comes at a price. In this case, it’s having to figure out a logical process without a slew of previous models to learn from.
The task becomes monumental when you’re talking upwards of 185 middle schoolers, which is the combined population of the 7th and 8th grades at Mattanawcook Junior High School in Lincoln. Most of those kids will have had some involvement in MCHP by the time the project ends in June. To make matters more complicated, all five of the team’s website exhibit topics will be based largely on student work. So, how the heck do you do that?
Well, first of all, it helps to have six teachers involved: Three who teach English/Language Arts, whose students are doing some of the writing and editing; a technology teacher, who has overseen students conducting oral history interviews; and two Social Studies teachers, whose students are doing much of the digitization, the bulk of the research, and a variety of written work.
It is in the Social Studies classes–a total of 10 between teachers Heidi Harris, the MCHP team leader, and Mark Koscuiszka–that the greatest percentage of the work is being done. To keep things organized, productive, and engaging, Heidi and Mark devised a lesson plan that breaks the work and class into manageable chunks, thereby allowing each student to have individual success. In logical fashion, here it is:
Part I: Teamwork and Research (Completed)
- Each class was assigned one of the five exhibit topics: Communication/Transportation, Influential Institutions, Founding Fathers & Early Settlers, Wartime Lincoln, or Main Street. (Each topic will be focused on by two classes.)
- Each class was then divided into small groups of 3-5 students and assigned one of several sub-topics under each main topic. For example, under “Influential Institutions,” groups might be tackling Workman’s Hospital, the Catholic Church, MacGregor Spool Mill, or another of the dozen or so categories. (Sub-topics were generated by Lincoln Historical Society president Jeanette King and Mattanawcook Junior High School librarian Dottie Murchison.)
- With the help of resources from the school and town libraries, the student groups completed an initial worksheet about their sub-topics under the headings: “What we know already,” “What we can infer,” and “Questions we have.”
Part II: Independent Work and Outcomes (in Progress)
- Each group was given a worksheet designed to divide its sub-topic into four learning areas: Mastery (a who-what-when-where overview of the subject), Understanding (placing the subject in context and analyzing it), Interpersonal (relating the subject to oneself and one’s experiences), Self-Expressive (using the subject as a jumping off point for creative/imaginative expression). Each student in the group will tackle one of the four areas.
- Each of the four areas has one or more prompts that the student can pick to address. For example, “Interpersonal” offers these choices: a) How does this topic connect to you today? b) Describe your feelings, or the feelings of someone living at the time, when a certain event happened (related to the subject at hand). c) How would you respond if ______ (an event related to the subject at hand) happened to you or someone you care about? d) How did ______ impact your life? Your future? Our future as a town?
- Completed student work will appear in a multi-format fashion on the MCHP website under the exhibit topics. Each sub-topic of each exhibit will feature at least four different products.
Clearly, designing such a thorough plan for so many students took some serious time, energy, and brainpower. (A special thanks, on behalf of the Lincoln team, to MCHP Education Consultant Kristie Littlefield who helped worked out the kinks.) But the result will not only be a diverse and student-driven website, it will be–and already is–a great model for future MCHP teachers who want to involve large numbers of students in the project.