7-8 Grade Field Trip Lesson: Fort at No. 4 History

Rationale and Background

A field trip to The Fort at No. 4 in Charlestown, NH is a fun and exciting experience for students and teachers. Young learners who visit the Fort are temporarily immersed in 18th century life by churning butter, trading and bartering and playing colonial era games. The reconstructed Palisade, houses and Great Chamber are a compelling sight for students as they approach the Fort. Costumed historical interpreters guide students through their unique hands-on program designed to connect students to the past. While the Fort’s program is appropriate for visitors of all ages, the Fort’s school program complements the colonial period curriculum in United States History for fourth through eighth grade students.

A field trip to the Fort has sound pedagogical reasons that skillful teachers capitalize on to achieve their educational outcomes. Research has thoroughly documented the benefits of interactive learning as found in a Living History Museum such as Fort at No. 4. Students touch and manipulate recreated objects from 18th century life; their minds are active and engaged which promotes kinesthetic learning. The interactive program overall addresses a variety of learning styles. Students who are naturally energetic, curious and multi-sensory thrive in this type of active learning environment. With this high degree of sensory input, students are more focused, gain a fuller picture of the historical time period and tend to retain the information longer.

In addition, a field trip to the Fort can help shape students’ attitudes about history by helping them construct their own meaning when presented with demonstrations and activities. This experiential learning cannot be duplicated in the classroom or with a textbook, yet can give students a positive outlook on studying history and help facilitate learning once they have returned to the classroom.

With educational objectives in mind, teachers can achieve curriculum goals through this fun field trip experience. A key component to a successful field trip is that students are adequately prepared for the adventure. Familiarizing the class with the Fort’s history is the first step in helping each student have the best experience possible. Through preparation and prior knowledge offered in this lesson students will connect more readily to the Fort’s program. The Fort History used in the lesson is targeted for the middle school reader. Teachers of lower elementary age students can adapt the History to meet their students’ reading level. The overriding essential question of the lesson asks What can a local colonial era living history museum teach us about New Hampshire History and the larger period of United States and even World History? By having students read, answer questions and discuss the History of Fort at No. 4, students have context when listening to interpreters and ask higher quality questions. By the end of the lesson, students are not only prepared to visit the Fort, but are better able to understand the historic, economic and social aspects of life in pre-Revolutionary America.

A trip “back in time” at the Fort is a great source of excitement and motivation for students. It can make a difference in students’ understanding of the time period. The learning and thinking generated by the visit is only the start. Teachers can build on this dimension of student understanding throughout the learning process.

Sources

Enhancing Young Children’s Museum Experiences by Barbara Piscitelli, Michele Everett and Katrina Weier, 2003.

Every body can learn: Engaging the bodily-kinesthetic intelligence in the everyday classroom. By Marilyn Patterson. Cheltenham, Vic: Hawker Brownlow, 1997.

Frames of mind: The theory of multiple intelligences by Howard Gardner. Basic Books, 1983.

John Dewey's experience and education: Lessons for museums by Ted Ansbacher, Curator, 41(1), 1998, 36-49.

Making a Difference: What Have We Learned About Visitor Learning? by Lynda Kelly, Head, Australian Museum Audience Research Centre, April, 2000.

Museums: Places of learning by G.E. Hein and M. Alexander. Washington, DC: American Association of Museums, 1998.

www.fortat4.com