January 29, 2010
On an Historic Note
Collaboration among colleagues is one of the hallmarks of a strong faculty. This week our third grade team, along with their associate teacher, a colleague from a neighboring town, and our own Mr. Toppa have all combined their knowledge and talents to enhance a teaching and learning experience for themselves and the students.
The third grade teachers have been leading an ongoing unit about the beginnings of the American Revolution. After a recent visit to observe a classroom at a nearby public school, associate teacher Ms. Morris brought back a brief play about the Boston Tea Party, which fit perfectly with our own students’ work. The skit includes many details about the Patriots’ protest against British control, introduces significant individuals, and supports the background reading, field labs, and research that the children conducted throughout the fall and early winter. The children eagerly seized upon the opportunity to incorporate drama into their social studies lessons, and the teachers used the script to reinforce many of the concepts and geographic locations that had been addressed earlier in the unit.
When Ms. Morris described the project to Mr. Toppa, he immediately lent his support by locating a song about the Boston Tea Party. In music class, he taught the children to sing the selection as well as how to play the melody on the recorder. Back in the classroom, the words to the song provided an additional opportunity for examining the context for the colonists’ rebellious act. Was it OK to dump the tea? Many students thought that the protestors had a right to show how angry they were about the British fees on tea. The children discussed the concept of a tax: A teacher asked, “Are there good taxes?” One child thought that yes, some taxes were good because they helped people who were homeless, and they helped raise money for schools and roads. Many children thought it wasn’t fair to have a tax on tea, because people drink it every day.
As they rehearsed the song and the play, the students brought a historic scene to life, accompanied by laughter, serious attention to detail, and camaraderie. They will perform the full production in the classroom on Monday, which will be a fitting tribute to Ms. Morris’ last day as their associate. As for the inimitable Mr. Toppa, his role as an honorary social studies teacher is a joyful demonstration of the value of integrating arts into the core curriculum, and a testament to the benefits of communication and integration across many areas of study.