Passion Moves Kids Into Action

January 14, 2016

Jennifer Howard, our guest author, is a second-grade teacher at Willowbrook Elementary in Bentonville. Willowbrook students helped Scott Family Amazeum staff prototype Unfield Trip experiences. Our philosophy at the Amazeum is that we're a platform for learning not only for our guests, but also for our staff. We encourage guests to share how their experience here inspired them so that we can incorporate those perspectives into our curriculum. On Jan. 13, 2016, Mrs. Howard's students did just that by presenting their learning about the concept of community to other Unfield Trip guests. What they have done is nothing short of amazing.

Do you believe kids can take charge of THEIR learning? After our Amazeum “Unfield Trip,” my students returned to the classroom intrigued by the Log Cabin and the Homestead. Connections were made between their discoveries at the Homestead and their lives today. Their questions and comparisons led to the idea of community, which just happens to be one our Social Studies standards . . . Suddenly an opportunity presented itself. Could I take my students’ interests and guide them through authentic learning? 

Looking for a hook to expand their thinking, I decided to read Me on the Map by Joan Sweeney, wondering if my students would compare past/present to community to maps (I was thinking they would make some kind of community past/present poster and that would be it . . .).  What I didn’t count on was the connection they would make to a book we were already reading as a class, Trouble According to Humphrey by Betty G. Birney. The class in the Humphrey book was also studying communities and the kids in the book decided to build a 3D community. Suddenly, my class was no longer satisfied with just a poster proving their learning, but they wanted to tinker and make an ENTIRE COMMUNITY! How could I say, “NO” to their interest, excitement, and authentic determination? Now the real work began!

First, we came up with a name, “Friendville.” Then, each student designed and tinkered to create their special house in the community. After building our houses we had a class meeting to decide what a community needs, or what’s important to a community. They made a list: community helpers, jobs, stores, restaurants, farm, hospitals, etc. Research began to prove why their addition was important to the community. We then had to figure out how to layout our community. We used Google Earth to search different towns and viewed many different layouts of small downtown areas.  The students decided to go with a square like Bentonville. They then had to cut and measure paper to create the streets, grass and concrete. The students figured out where everything should go and attached the pieces. They added small details like trees, bushes, pools, ponds and stop signs.

During our community research, we discovered that people in our community are hungry so we researched ways people get help when they cannot afford food, shelter, clothing etc. The students then added a Salvation Army and a Goodwill. They come up with the idea of a community garden where people could come get food for free.

Mrs. Bedford’s second-grade class came in to see our town and they shared with us “Heifer International.” My students loved the idea of helping people in other countries and decided to give up their Christmas party and put the money towards the cause. We then researched Heifer International and added more animals to our farm that could help our community.

Throughout the entire process, the Rogers Historical Museum came in several times to teach us how transportation changed from then and now and how the use of trains has changed. They also had a lesson on apples and how they used to be around the area and are not anymore. Additionally, we took a “Historical Tour” of Bentonville and learned some history of our community (Native American Museum, Peel Mansion, Wal-Mart Museum).

Just think...this amazing 3D community and compassion to make a difference, all started from an interest in the log cabin homestead on our “Unfield Trip” to the Amazeum.