13 Days Project – Determining the List

[Warning – a long post describing an exhilarating process]

The Background

I have the pleasure of working with our AP US History teacher, Kevin Randolph, and the students on their final project of the year. I am really excited about this process because it will allow Kevin and I to model and participate in an experience which I believe highlights the tenants and philosophies of what a 21st Century classroom should look like. This experience will allow Kevin, the students, and I to collaborate and share our knowledge as we construct an artifact which is a culminating examination as historians. Kevin and I will be participating as guides and mentors, as well as participants in the learning exchange which is being undertaken. More than simple gathering of facts, we will research, analyze, construct, and share our findings with the world.

The basis of a 21st Century learning experience is a solid essential question. Kevin, a master history teacher, excels in creating essential questions which cut to the kernel and essence of the matter. This year, the essential question for the group to determine for this project is, what are the 11 days  that had the most profound impact on shaping this country? 

As Kevin states, the rationale of the project is that

Contingency is the backbone of the study of history. Every student of history has to contemplate the what might have been phenomenon, regardless of the period or event under investigation. Are events random in nature, or are the logical outgrowth of the decisions and actions people take and the consequences that follow? Do people set out to make history or does history make them?

Our final project for the year will require you to use your research, analytical, reporting and presentation skills. The project has both an individual and a collective component and will be the final grade for the class and serve as your final exam

 The First Steps

The first step of the project was for students to individually develop their own list. Once created, they would post them in a discussion forum and then narrow the list to the final 11 which would be selected.

Whenever I assist one of our student groups, it always gets me thinking about what I would choose on my own list. So I sat down last evening and created my own list. When I shared this with Kevin, he asked me to share my list with the group. My list was the following selections:

  1. September 13, 1788 – Ratification of Constitution
  2. May 2, 1803 – Louisana Purchase – began the countries expansion to the west
  3. September 10, 1813 – Battle of Lake Erie – establishment of US Navy
  4. December 23,1860 – South Carolina adopts the “Declaration of the Immediate Causes Which Induce and Justify the Secession of South Carolina from the Federal Union”
  5. May 10, 1869 – Driving of Golden Spike – connected east and west and created railroad right of ways which have been used by communications (telegraph, telephone, Internet to drive business
  6. Haymarket Riot – May 4, 1886 leading to rise of unions and other work actions
  7. May 15, 1911 – Department of Justice versus Standard Oil decision, breaking up monopoly that allowed others to get into the market to fuel the economy
  8. January 11, 1949 – WDTV (KDKA) becomes first networked television station on the DuMont network. This allowed for the creation of common culture.
  9. Voters Act 1965 ? – Allowed all the opportunity to vote
  10. May 25, 1961 – Kennedy promises to put a man on moon, which lead to creation of Internet via shared computers, and led a resurgence in math, science and technology
  11. June 23, 1972 – Title IX passed stating No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance

Upon sharing my list, the group began to try to determine how they were going to narrow their individual lists down to the final 11 days. While in class, I asked if the class would mind if I became part of the process and be assigned a date. I feel that it is important to model and work with students on interesting projects such as this. The interactions and mentoring on both sides is fascinating. I also asked Kevin, in class, without previous conversation, whether he would accept the challenge and be willing to research and create the 13th day. Graciously, he accepted the challenge, mainly for the same reasons as I did.

The group had developed the following list of events from which they were going to narrow down their list:

  1. Columbus Reaching New World (Oct 12, 1492)
  2. Founding of Jamestown (May 14, 1607)
  3. Stamp Act (Mar 22, 1765)
  4. Declaration of Independence (Jul 4, 1776)
  5. Battle of Saratoga (Oct 7, 1777)
  6. Shays Rebellion (Jan 25, 1787)
  7. Opening of Constitutional Convention (May 25, 1787)
  8. Northwest Ordinance (Jul 13, 1787)
  9. Ratification of Constitution (Sep 13, 1788)
  10. Great Compromise (Jul 16, 1787)
  11. Eli Whitney invents Cotton Gin (Mar 14, 1794)
  12. Washington steps down (Mar 4, 1797)
  13. Inauguration of Thomas Jefferson (Mar 4, 1801)
  14. Louisiana Purchase (Apr 30, 1803)
  15. Lewis and Clark (May 14, 1804)
  16. Monroe Doctrine (Dec 2, 1823)
  17. Indian Removal Act (May 28, 1830)
  18. Discovery of Gold in California (Jan 24, 1848)
  19. Fugitive Slave Law (Sep 18, 1850)
  20. Dred Scott Decision (Mar 6, 1857)
  21. Nomination of Lincoln (May 10, 1860)
  22. Election of Lincoln (May 6,1860)
  23. South Carolina adopts Declaration of Secession (Dec 23, 1860)
  24. Inauguration of Abraham Lincoln (Mar 4, 1861)
  25. Fort Sumter (Apr 12, 1861)
  26. Battle of Antietam (Sep 17, 1862)
  27. Emancipation Proclamation (Sep 22, 1862)
  28. Battle of Gettysburg (Jul 3, 1863)
  29. Completion of Transcontinental Railroad (May 10, 1869)
  30. Light Bulb demonstrated (Oct 22, 1879)
  31. Public Demonstration of Light Bulb (Dec 31, 1879)
  32. Haymarket Riot (May 4, 1886)
  33. Census and closure of American Frontier (Jun 1, 1890)
  34. Wounded Knee (Dec 29, 1890)
  35. Homestead Strike (Jul 6, 1892)
  36. Columbian Exposition (May 1, 1893)
  37. Pullman Strike (May 11, 1894)
  38. Invention of Model T (Sep 27, 1908)
  39. Standard Oil Monopoly stuck down (May 15, 1911)
  40. Assasination of Archduke Ferdinand (Jun 28, 1914)
  41. Scopes Trial (May 5, 1925)
  42. Black Friday (Oct 29, 1933)
  43. Inauguration of Franklin Roosevelt (Mar 4, 1933)
  44. Einstein-Szilard letter (Jul 16, 1939)
  45. Pearl Harbor (Dec 7, 1941)
  46. D-Day (Jun 6, 1944)
  47. GI Bill (Jun 22, 1944)
  48. V-E Day (May 7, 1945)
  49. Bombing of Hiroshima (Aug 6, 1945)
  50. Creation of UN (Oct 24, 1945)
  51. Truman Doctrine (Mar 12, 1947)
  52. Building of Levvittown (May 7, 1947)
  53. WDTV ((KDKA) becomes first networked television station (Jan 11, 1949)
  54. Rosa Parks (Dec 1, 1955)
  55. Elvis Debut Single (Jan 27, 1956)
  56. Elvis on Ed Sullivan Show (Sep 9, 1956)
  57. First Polio Vaccinations (Apr 24, 1960)
  58. Kennedy promises to put man on moon (May 25, 1961)
  59. Cuban Missile Crisis (Oct 28, 1962)
  60. Assassination of Kennedy (Nov 22, 1962)
  61. Gulf of Tonkin Resolution (Aug 7, 1964)
  62. Voters Right Act (Aug 6, 1965)
  63. Thurgood Marshall appointed justice of Supreme Court (Jun 13, 1967)
  64. Armstrong walks on Moon (Jul 21, 1969)
  65. Woodstock (Aug 15, 1969)
  66. Watergate Scandal (Jun 17, 1972)
  67. Title IX passed (Jun 23, 1972)
  68. Nixon Resignation (Aug 19, 1974)
  69. World Trade Center (Sep 11, 2001)
  70. Invasion of Iraq (Mar 20, 2003)

Creating Group Consensus – Creating the Final List

The group began to debate how they were going to narrow this list down. Should it be a vote? Should items be grouped? In the end, it was determined that everyone would go to the whiteboard and write down the 2-3 events that they thought were most significant from their list.

From that exercise, the following list was generated:

  1.  Transcontinental Railroad
  2. Cotton Gin
  3. Gulf of Tonkin
  4. First Polio Vaccination
  5. Light Bulb
  6. Hiroshima
  7. Founding of Levittown
  8. VE Day
  9. Wounded Knee
  10. Model T Ford
  11. Great Compromise
  12. Brown v Brown
  13. End of Revolutionary War
  14. Shays Rebellion
  15. Dred Scott
  16. Census of 1890
  17. Stock Mark Crash
  18. Rosa Parks
  19. Lincoln Election
  20. Pearl Harbor
  21. Civil Rights Act 1964
  22. Pearl Harbor
  23. Louisiana Purchase
  24. GI Bill
  25. Truman Doctrine
  26. Taking Down of Berlin Wall
  27. Armstrong on Moon
  28. Battle of Antinam
  29. Jackie Robinson First Game
  30. Battle of Saratoga
  31. Golden Spike
  32. Title IX
  33. Ratification of Woodstock
  34. Woodstock

At this point, there was discussion as to whether or not natural pairs should be grouped (Armstrong on Moon and Kennedy speech, Great Compromise and Ratification of Constitution, Pearl Harbor – Hiroshima, etc.) together. In the end, it was determined that the group was vote for whether they thought that the day was significant enough to make the cut. There were several events which were nearly unanimous and others which individuals had to defend for its inclusion. For me, this was a great example of the application of research aspect of history and the critical thinking and analysis which we all strive for.

Midway through the vote, it was determined that there were several events that were not included which needed further merit. One was Woman’s suffrage and a second was the resignation of Richard Nixon. They were added to the list and voted on.

What emerged were eight events which gained a majority of over 75% of the class, including Kevin and myself. Further discussions were held on those who were on the bubble, gaining only 50% of the groups support the first time around. A

The Final List

  1. Ratification of Constitution
  2. Louisiana Purchase
  3. Lincoln’s Election
  4. Golden Spike
  5. Census of 1890
  6. Model T Ford
  7. Womens Suffrage
  8. Hiroshima
  9. Jackie Robinson’s First Game
  10. Brown vs Board of Ed
  11. Civil Rights Act of 1964
  12. War Powers Act

(note: I am missing one because I did not take good enough notes at the end of the class. I believe it is putting the a man on the moon)

Reflection on the Process

Looking back at the original list, which I had not seen until I seen until I compiled it for this post an hour ago, I think that the group did a great job of creating the list. In retrospect, I wish the group would have given more consideration to the Indian Removal Act and the assassination of John Kennedy which did not make the first cut. The debates and conversations were civil and it was great to see the passion that individuals displayed in defending a particular idea. I wish I had taken a video of the process to show this experience. You had to be there to fully appreciate it.

The Next Step

At the end of the class, each student decided which project they were going to work on. I ended up with Woman’s Suffrage. Now over the next week, each of us will be creating a 4-7 minute documentary which will explain the event, the ramifications, and justification for inclusion. Then the following week, we will be putting each of the documentaries in a VoiceThread and open it for the world to debate.

I am looking forward to sharing more reflections from this process, those which I experience helping students as well as mine creating my own part of the project. This will force me to become more knowledgeable about an area of history I don’t have much experience.

At the end of the day, I had a conversation with one student who commented that the issues which were published as a result of the Seneca Falls Convention in 1848 were similar to those which were included in the Declaration of Independence. It is this sort of exchange of ideas and thoughts that I anticipate the most during this upcoming week. Having the students guide me through history while I help guide them through the technology requirements in creating their portion of the story will be invigorating. Stay tuned for further updates next week.

5 thoughts on “13 Days Project – Determining the List

  1. Great post! Very good use of 21st Century skills. Excellent final exam, it continues the learning instead of testing one’s ability to remember facts, that could be easily looked up when needed. I am thinking about such a thing now for my algebra class.

  2. What a great activity – so engaging. I’d love to be a studnet in your classroom. I’ve just emialed the link to this page to a teacher at my school- I think she could do a similar thing with her International Studies class. Thanks for the inspiration.
    Jenny Luca.

  3. Interesting and inspiring use of after-AP school time, and ways to have students create something more timeless than a paper. Impressed and inspired that you also got involved as a participant in the process – good modeling for students of continuous learning.

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