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    U.S. History at CRLS  

    What a pleasure it was to sit in on Lily Rayman-Read’s U.S. History class at CRLS recently!  This session, which was held in the Pearl K. Wise Library, afforded our students an exciting opportunity for hands-on learning, where they took on the roles of various stakeholders in a major political conflict and learned not only about perspective, point of view, and historical context, but also about the strategies that are available to them as they attempt to make the peace. Ms. Rayman-Read describes this exceptional learning experience as follows:

    “In the class setting, the Stamp Act Congress, Members of Parliament, Free and Enslaved Colonists of Color, Native Americans, Loyalists, and Sons and Daughters of Liberty of Ms. Read’s U.S. History 1 class convened in Paris to avert the American Revolution. Students took on historical roles in a three-day intensive conflict resolution workshop based on the Axis of Hope Workshop of Carl F. Hobert of Boston University and developed by the students of CRLS History teacher Marlin Kann, and experienced the profound frustration of interest-group politics through five rounds of deal-making, and more than a little deal-breaking. Students in each role met with each other group once, and the activity culminated in a final round designed to generate a mutually agreeable position paper and prevent all-out war. Native Americans and Free and Enslaved People of Color found common ground with the Sons and Daughters of Liberty and collaborated to advance their shared interests, and one couldn’t help but leave with the impression that this small group of CRLS 10th graders have a future improving the world and shaping geopolitics in the negotiation rooms of New York and the Hague.

    “This conflict resolution simulation around the American Revolution asks all students to engage in meaningful critical historical analysis, and allows students to access and utilize historical content and conflict mediation skills learned in class. The project was followed up by a debrief process about consensus building and the importance of active citizenship, as well as further activities around conflict resolution and negotiation. This highly engaging and fun activity allows for the voices of all students to be brought out and heard, and finds students practicing many of skills they are asked to build within the K-12 History curriculum in Cambridge, especially around research, public speaking, and critical thinking.”

    For me, observing this class and interacting with the students reminded me of how powerful active learning truly is.  While some people might be hard pressed to understand how role-playing American Revolution political dynamics could be relevant today, we simply need to listen to how the students themselves described this activity.  Captured below is a sampler of some comments the students made to me about this type of learning:

    “I like it because you experience what they were going through and you can see their thinking behind everything they did.’

    “It’s a great way to learn.  I can imagine what the Loyalists felt like during the conflict and how the other people felt.  Doing this kind of role-playing, I can actually step into the shoes of those people at that time.”

    “It’s a really good way of showing us the difficulty of actually making a decision in this kind of situation and how it’s not just Parliament passing a law.  Parliament has to go through a ton of stuff.  People disagree and it’s a good way to show conflict and how there are reliable ways to solve it.”

    “For me the best part about this is that it gives you a good view of the decisions that the actual historical figures had to make, and you get to make them yourself.  You experience them without a bias because you have no choice but to make certain decisions, and when you actually face the situations that those historical figures faced and the decisions they had to make--it’s real interesting.”

    “It gives you a sense of how politics works and what Ms. Read said about having a sense of trust.  You don’t know whether Parliament is going to team up with Stamp Act Congress, even if that’s not the best deal for them. You just sort of have to explore it.”

    “It’s possible we actually have a treaty that ends up keeping the peace.  That would be cool.”

    Posted by jyoung On November 05, 2015 at 9:27 AM