We are studying the colonization of America through our reading and writing units. Learning about history is a passion of mine, and I try to find ways to make it interesting and relevant for my students.
It is hard for nine and ten year olds to imagine life before cell phones, computers, and television, to name a few. And this time period in American history has some really dark events like slavery, indentured servitude, women without rights, and the conquering of native people. One thing I treasure about my students is that they cannot imagine a world that enslaves people or treats people differently based on skin color or gender. They are shocked when we examine this part of colonial history and always ask “why did they do that?” When I talk about the reasons, they still cannot understand it.
A lesson that we all enjoyed was the comparison of social issues in colonial days versus today. For example, the students compared technology back in colonial days such as the printing press, to technology today, like cell phones and computers. We compared terrorism back then such as attacks by native people (or attacks by colonists on native populations), to terrorism today, like ISIS. We saw that school in colonial days was hit or miss depending on your economic status and that school today is available to everyone in the United States. Comparing the past to the present helps us understand why change happens and how societies develop.
I think it’s important to learn about our past because it gives us a context from which to understand ourselves and others. History shows us the mistakes people made in the past, and I hope learning about those mistakes helps us to guide the future.