History Hunters

Jamie Tipton and Jill Nichols, teachers at Normal Park Museum Magnet K-8 (Chattanooga, TN) celebrated America for two weeks at the beginning of the summer — retracing Colonial American sites along the east coast to examine the ramifications of events and decisions on people past and present.

(Clockwise): In front of Boston’s Faneuil Hall (also called the “Cradle of Liberty”); Joining the re-enactments in Williamsburg; In the office of Tennessee’s state representative in Washington DC; Arriving at Plimoth Plantation; Aboard the Mayflower II; Alongside signers of the Declaration of Independence in Philadelphia’s Independence Hall; With the Liberty Bell, also in Philadelphia.

Beginning in Boston, these Fund for Teachers Fellows observed original documents, re-enactments, artifacts, landmarks and national treasures to impart to fourth graders an understanding of the human element in American history. Upon returning home, Jill and Jamie reflected on their odyssey across centuries and states:

“To understand who we are and where we come from, we must step back in time and retrace the routes, decisions and struggles that our ancestors experienced when developing this nation. For us to be able to uncover these stories we had to take on the role of History Hunters. We visited 10 historical cities along the east coast in just 14 days, looking to deepen our understanding of how the America we know came to be.

Our hunt for history started in Boston on the Freedom Trail. We participated in a Boston Tea Party reenactment, took a colonial lantern tour and visited all the stops along the Freedom Trail – including the site of the Boston Massacre. The next morning we were led around Plymouth by a Native American who was able to share how events unfolded from their perspective. Next was Philadelphia, rich with history from the Constitution Center, Liberty Bell and Betsy Ross House. From here we spent the next day exploring in Baltimore Fort McHenry and learned about the Star Spangled Banner.

Washington D.C. awaited us with tours of the Capital, the Supreme Court and a night tour of the monuments. We even met with Tennessee’s Senators and the Department of Education!

A car ride away landed us at George Washington’s home. More mysteries awaited us in Roanoke that night. We spent the next few days exploring Williamsburg, Jamestown, and Yorktown by participating in 17th century daily life, customs, music, heritage and storytelling.

Before this fellowship, we had no idea, how much these experiences would impact us as history teachers. We were able to immerse ourselves into the stories of these people and the events that led to colonizing the New World. We gained first-hand experience that forced us to question our own knowledge. By adding new perspectives, we began to deepen our levels of understanding and discover ways to cast unbiased opinions about these events. When experiencing the struggles and triumphs that people faced before us, it gave us a desire to convey these events with truth to our students.”

For Jill and Jamie, a successful outcome of their fellowship will be when students look beyond just the dates and points on a map when studying American History to be able to envision the possibilities that lie before them as a result of decisions that were made in the past. Using video diaries created along the way, students will learn a new topic about American History each week, analyzing events from different points of view and becoming critical thinkers in their pursuit of history. Students will assume the role of a person from the past and make decisions that reflect how peoples’ past and present were affected. Lastly, they will create a showcase of learning and becoming experts on specific people and places from America’s colonial era, a showcase that includes original writing in different genres, artwork, artifacts and performances.

“Our students will see that our nation’s treasure is not only the documents and artifacts that helped make our country, but also the people that make up our great nation today. They will learn that the decisions and choices they make today will impact people in the future, just as the decisions made by our colonial predecessors impact us. Just as our Founding Fathers were making history, so is this generation. Students will now see learning opportunities available to them and be inspired to seek out their own historical experiences in Chattanooga and wherever their life journey may take them. They will decide what history they want to write”

Enjoy your holiday weekend by reviewing a day-by-day account of the History Hunters‘ patriotic journey on their blog.