Wednesday, July 5, 2017

PBL & Inquiry with National History Day: Year 1

National History Day. When I first heard about it, I was thinking it was a day where the government decided to recognize History teachers, or our country's history. Little did I know that not only was I wrong, but I had come across a program that inspired and influenced what I do in the classroom.

In the 2015-2016 school year we were working on IMPACT!, our project on Mount St. Helens and how it has impacted our local community in Southwest Washington, the state, and the world. I knew I wanted to try and do NHD, so I designed a project that would incorporate one of the products for the program. Students made documentaries about the the many different impacts it had on science, including how it changed what we now about how life restarts, how glaciers work, and of course how volcanoes erupt. There are many other threads that can be pulled as well, like how it personally impacted the people who lived around the mountain and how they lost everything, but gained new perspective. The students got to choose what the focus of their film would be, as they told one of these perspectives. To launch the project we took all of our 7th and 8th graders to Mount St. Helens so that they could experience first hand themselves.

As we went through IMPACT!, we partnered
with @MtStHelensNVM, @MSHInstituteand @USGS to bring in geologists, hydrologists, biologists, authors, and forest rangers. We also had parents, and other community members come in to share how they had experienced Mount St. Helens in different ways. That year the theme for National History Day was Exploration, Encounter, and Exchange in History. I wasn't sure exactly how to implement this, so I just kept it posted in the classroom as we researched, inquired, and worked. Some of my students. Some documentary teams focused on one of these ideas, such as how we have shared what we now know about predicting volcanoes with others around the world to help prevent loss of human life. Some looked at how we have explored the mountain to see how life begins, or how some people explore and climb it to learn about perseverance and themselves.

One team, however, took on all three of the topics and we decided to take their film to the Southwest Washington Regional event. I was not exactly sure what to expect at our first NHD competition, but myself along with all of my students and parents had an absolute "blast!" The girls presented their film, and then answered questions from the judges. At the break, we found out that they had qualified for the finals for that day, and that they would present again in the afternoon. They presented again, and we waited... Finally, the awards ceremony took place. In our category, group/team documentary, the top four (4) teams would move on to the state competition to represent Southwest Washington. Low and behold, the girls placed fourth at regionals, and it was on to state!

This is where the girls really took to heart all of the skills they had learned throughout our year and, with their perseverance, put everything together yet again. The judges left the team some really nice feedback, which the girls were able to absorb and break down into usable pieces. (We work on teacher and peer feedback all the time using the Glows and Grows technique) The re-worked different sections, removed and added captions. They re-recorded with new pacing, switched out images, and really strengthened their overall product. 

The last step in our process was heading to the state competition in Auburn, Washington. The team was ecstatic and in that perfect place between nervous and confident. We decided that we would make sure to support all of the other teams that were competing in our room, so we camped out and watched all of them. And while I have  bias, I believe they knocked the presentation out of the park. When we left to wait for the finals results we were very confident that they had a top three (3) film from our room. 

While we waited for the results, we explored some of the other categories. The one that impressed us the like no other were the exhibits. As we meandered through them all, and saw the excitement and curiosity that they generated from our students and parents, I know that we would have to create some of our own for the next competition. This would become Get Up, Stand Up!, which I will detail in an upcoming post.

Unfortunately, only the top two (2) from each room move onto the state finals. The girls were grinning ear to ear after their experience and I marveled at not only what they had done, but what ALL of the students there had done. As we left that day, the parents and students thanked me for a tremendous experience. From that point on, I knew that I would not only be participating in National History Day, but I would also be advocating for it to be done in as many schools as possible.

Here is their film, Beyond the Blast!

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