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Second grade Thanksgiving unit gets a historic boost with actual experiences from Plimoth Plantation and more

Second grade teachers, with a $9,225 Fund for Teachers grant, investigated the historical events leading up to the first Thanksgiving (harvest celebration) in Massachusetts which inspired them to teach history in a fresh way. Students are now spending days leading up to Thanksgiving exploring aspects of Plymouth Colony, influence of the Wampanoag tribe and preparing an authentic feast.

“Our second grade social studies curriculum is refreshed, renewed, and refocused,” according to Bell, Carlson-Phillips, Hellmann and Klaustermeier at Tiffany Creek Elementary in Boyceville, who designed a Fund for Teachers Fellowship. An innovative, hands-on unit has been integrated in each classroom. Stereotypes have been dissolved with facts; a deeper appreciation for ancestors has been established; and interactive role playing and games have made history real for eight-year-olds.

The ten day fellowship last July, allowed the TCE4History team to be immersed in Early American History. At Plimoth Plantation, they learned from historians dressed as members of the Wampanoag tribe about life before and after the English arrived. They heard the colonists’ perspective in the 17th century English village and at the Mayflower II. The TCE4 History team experienced history at every turn in Plymouth, MA.

“Teachers are as diverse as the learners they teach,” said the team. “And just like our students, we’re continually learning. This fellowship provided an opportunity to immerse ourselves in an enriched set of experiences that changed the way we teach this facet of American History. Our new, deeper understanding helped us push beyond the textbook and revise our unit with new information, insights and enthusiasm.”

Each week of November leading up to the holiday, second graders now learn about a different aspect of the Thanksgiving story: The Wamanoag Tribe; The Mayflower and its voyage; the First Comers in the new world (not “Pilgrims”); and finally the celebration of the harvest. The day before Thanksgiving break, students will create and serve delicious dishes. “Our enriched Thanksgiving unit is creating and inspiring lifelong learners while addressing the state standards,” the team explained. “At the same time, we’re instilling American pride and a greater understanding of democracy by learning about the beginning of our country. We are thankful for Funds For Teacher’s and this opportunity.”

Teachers interested in designing their own Fund for Teachers fellowship may apply online at the nonprofit’s web site. Applicants, eligible for up to $5,000 as an individual and $10,000 as a team, have until January 30, 2014, to sumbit their proposals. Recipients are notified in April. Fund for Teachers supports preK-12 teachers’ personal and professional growth as they identify and pursue opportunities around the world that impact their practice, students and school communities. Since 2001, more than 5,500 teachers have pursued new knowledge and skills on every continent with $20 million in Fund for Teachers grants.