Hands on With History

Touching pieces of history from the 1800s, RSS 4th Grade students interpreted artifacts at a “pop-up” museum on campus.
An original daguerreotype, an anti-slavery token from 1838, and a first edition copy of the autobiography of the famous freed slave, Elizabeth Keckly: just a few of the items on display as part of the 4th Grade “pop-up” museum this week.
RSS parent, scholar and professor Dr. Jennifer Fleischner was thrilled to share these items with our fourth graders who are currently studying the Civil War. Dr. Fleischner has written several books on slavery including, Mrs. Lincoln and Mrs. Keckly: The Remarkable Story of the Friendship Between a First Lady and a Former Slave, a historical account of Elizabeth Keckly, a freed slave who became the dressmaker for Mary Todd Lincoln during Abraham Lincoln’s presidency.
Dr. Fleischner, professor at Adelphi University, explained to the fourth graders the work a historian does when interpreting primary sources. She showed the students the journal page she used to determine Elizabeth Keckly’s birthdate; she was the first historian to discover this information. Then students had a chance to do their own historical detective work with the items Dr. Fleischner brought to share. In their own mini-museum, students were allowed to handle these historical items and make their own deductions from the primary sources.
Students were split into smaller groups and spent time looking, touching and interpreting the items in the “museum.” It was a thrill for the fourth graders to be able to hold things that are more than 150 years old. The group that studied the anti-slavery token made observations about the date the coin was minted (1838) and what the message on the coin, “Am I Not a Woman & A Sister,” might mean. One group had a card with a picture of three former slave children on it; the back of the card explained that the card was sold to raise money for the education of these now emancipated children. With a variety of items to interpret, each group had a different experience deciphering the possible meanings behind the primary sources.
These tangible artifacts are a reminder to our students that the historical events they are learning about in class were actually experienced by real people. Dr. Fleischner gave our fourth graders a wonderful opportunity to get hands on with history in a way enhances their curriculum beyond the walls of the classroom. They learned the importance of primary resources and the work historians do to make discoveries about our past. 

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