While working with a history teacher in the Bronx recently, I asked her why students should want to learn what she has to teach. Her answer was wonderful. Her motivation wasn’t because students have to pass the tests or get into college or because she was saying so. Those are important, we agreed, but not primary. Instead, she shared, “I want them to understand how what happened in the past shapes society today.”
And with that, we started to reimagine the questions she posed to frame an upcoming unit on Reconstruction. We landed on this: Did 19th century Reconstruction cause 21st century poverty in the Bronx? We even created a teaser image and question to hook students based on census data. Check it:
In the weeks to come, we are going to assemble a rich collection of documents from that era and see how framing their analysis in terms of present-day impact trickles down into the kinds of lessons she teaches and students’ engagement.
It never ceases to amaze me, the power of reimagining a single question.