A Picture is Worth… A Lot

We recently updated our social studies framework and standards at Seoul Foreign Elementary School, and are now using Storypath materials to guide our curriculum.  While I have just started my first one with my students, I can already tell that they are engaged, curious, and excited about the content.  While the Storypath concept is not new (it was developed in the 1960s), the beliefs about children and their learning upon which it is based seems to fit right in with almost any discussion of essential skills today.

The approach has its roots in these beliefs about children and learning:

  • The world is complex and presents many layers of information. Children know a good deal about how the world works.
  • Children have a reservoir of knowledge that is often untapped in classroom settings.
  • When children build on that knowledge through activities such as questioning, investigating, and researching, new understandings are acquired.
  • Problem solving is a natural and powerful human endeavor. When children are engaged in problem-solving, they take ownership for their learning.
  • The story form integrates literacy skills to help children apply their learning in a meaningful context to gain a deeper, more complex understanding of major concepts.
  • When children construct their own knowledge and understanding of their world, their learning is more meaningful and memorable.

My class has been working on building the frieze for our story.  The materials provided do a fantastic job of describing the look and feel of colonial Boston, and, in fact, I didn’t WANT to provide the students with

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pictures until I was able to assess their independent thoughts and ideas about how things might look.  As we have now passed that stage, however, I’m looking forward to sharing some of the below images with them.  My hope is that they will begin to see colonial Boston as a real historical place, that they will have a stronger connection with that place, and that they will see how their thoughts and feelings about our classroom activities might mirror those (however superficially) of real people in the past.

I’m also looking forward to engaging my students in some critical thinking… most of these images were recorded in 1898, and our Storypath starts in 1765.  Many of the details in the picture fit with what we’ve already talked about; multiple chimneys, wooden shutters, cobblestoned streets, businesses on the first floor of residences, etc.  Others, however, would have been different or not present.  I envision using these in an exercise wherein students compare and contrast the photographs with what they know to be true in colonial Boston.

Some rights reserved by Boston Public Library

Some rights reserved by Boston Public Library

Some rights reserved by Boston Public Library

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