Students in first through fifth grades walked through the exhibits as the college students, dressed in costume, described life in the United States during different eras of history. Each display contained artwork, photographs and other artifacts from 1776 to the present.
Assistant Professor of Teacher Education Rhonda Vincent said her class started the semester talking about the 21st century learner and how they are used to media and lots of visuals to gain information. “So we started to think about how we could present to them the history of the United States in a visual form.”
Every semester, Vincent’s students produce some type of unusual and remarkable display for local school children. This semester’s effort was different because students focused on art and how it and social studies are very much related to culture and history, Vincent said.
For the first time, Vincent’s students also produced a “jackdaw,” a small artifact that they could give to each student to help them remember each era.
“In the Great Depression and World War II exhibits we gave students ration cards. The ones from 1776 gave children little golf pencils with a feather on it to represent a quill for signing the Declaration of Independence. They’ve all done different things so that students can take these objects back with them to remember their presentation,” Vincent said.
The students worked all semester doing research, preparing their displays, choosing source documents that are relevant to children and which artifacts clearly demonstrate each era. They also endeavored to make sure their costumes were representative and prepared how to adjust their presentation to accommodate children of all ages.
Derica Turner, a UNT Dallas senior, displayed the 1920s to the 1940s. She and her class partner talked about the Harlem renaissance when jazz music, poetry and literature became popular, as opposed to the darker Great Depression booth next door.
“It’s a lot of work, but we had a lot of fun doing research and trying to find things that the kids would enjoy. This is preparing us to be able to roll with the punches,” Turner said about the gallery. “I love Dr. Vincent. She’s my favorite professor,” Turner said. “She’s really helping us to become the best; she’s pulling the best out of us. It’s very stressful but in the end it shows that she really cares about her students and she wants us to excel.”
Jaenelly Rocha was the first costumed character students saw as she presented the beginning era of the United States. She talked about the colonies and what they had at the time. She showed pomander fragrance balls, a violin and some colonial art.
“This assignment is very fun and very engaging. It’s hands on for the kids and it’s a good visual to help them learn history in a different way.”
She agreed with Turner that Vincent is amazing. “I think she’s prepared us for where we’re heading as teachers. I feel very prepared now because of her and all her efforts.”
Marcos Zapata teaches fifth grade math at Adams. He stood against a wall watching the students walk through the gallery, which he called an excellent idea. He said he had never seen anything like it before.
“It’s great for students to see how history goes from decade to decade. It’s very important to show them through a visual way, and this is all about visuals. I think it doesn’t get any better than that for grade students.”