An Evening to Remember: Lower School History Night!
People who have never been to WCA’s Lower School History Night might hear the phrase “History Night” and shudder. Why? Perhaps their minds are wandering back to long, sleepy lectures or slow documentaries about indecipherable manuscripts and broken artifacts. Perhaps they see the study of history as simply memorizing a series of names and dates. That is the polar opposite of how WCA students study history! Senior Master Bill Zimmerman had this to say about our annual History Night event:
The evening is an opportunity for our Lower School students to show the fruit of their study in the school’s remarkable history curriculum. At each grade level, students do extensive units on various eras of American and world history, with each grade building on the knowledge gained in the earlier grades. Through a combination of hands-on projects, artwork, drama, class trips, textbooks, videos, and historical fiction, the students are immersed in another time period, and bring back an impressive body of information about it. The students’ excitement and fascination with these historical periods, combined with their teachers’ seemingly endless creativity, produces an evening that is fun, informative, and thoroughly enjoyable.
For those of you who missed this year’s History Night, come with us on a journey through the different countries and eras each grade represented. We’ll talk to the teachers, hear from guests, and then take a virtual tour of the classrooms through our photo gallery!
First, let’s head to Kindergarten for a chat with Ms. Suzanne Kahn!
What did the Kindergarten class represent for History Night?
Native American History! In the fall, we learned about the Wampanoag Indians when we studied the Pilgrims’ journey to the “New World”. Our unit on the Plains Indians in March tied in with our study of legends. The students learned two Plains Indian legends and even reenacted a Cheyenne Legend in the form of the Kindergarten class play.
Do you study the Native Americans only in History class?
We study them in our Geography and Bible lessons as well. I incorporate them into our study of maps when we learn about how America was founded and where the tribes lived. We also incorporate them into our Bible lessons when we learn the religious reasons why the Pilgrims traveled from England/Holland to the “New World” and how they spread God’s Word to the Native people in the Americas.
What fun experiences throughout the year prepare you for the big event?
We have a Thanksgiving program and feast where Wampanoag Natives (the students) invite the Pilgrims (their parents) over for a skit and snack. The children prepare the food by making a traditional Wampanoag dish called Succotash. We also travel to the Sharp’s Farm for the Pilgrim History tour where we learn about the Wampanoag Indians and their relationship to the Pilgrims. Another field trip we take is to the Native American Indian Museum in downtown D.C., and the students do lots of Native American crafts.
What did your students perform for the guests at History Night?
We take three weeks to prepare for our Kindergarten play called, “Wihio’s Duck Dance, a Cheyenne Indian Legend”. We do a traditional corn grinding song and a Wampanoag skit showcasing some of what we have learned in the class.
Tell us how you decorated your room for History Night.
The classroom is set up to look like a real Plains Indian village. There is a life-sized Tipi the children decorate with authentic Native designs. We also have an “About the Play” section in the room so everybody can learn about our production of “Wihio’s Duck Dance”. Our back room is set up so that our Plains Indian legend crafts are displayed, and all of the projects the children do in Art Class are displayed there too.
What do you most enjoy about History Night?
I love seeing the excitement of the children and seeing all the students that I have had from previous years reminiscing about their positive experience. Also, the kids have such a great experience in preparing for the class play. You often see another side of the children as they explore their creative and dramatic side.
Thanks Suzanne! Now, on to First Grade to speak with Mrs. Krystal Nola!We just learned that the Kindergarteners study Native American History. What did the First Graders focus on for History Night?
Ancient Egypt! The Lower School follows the Core Knowledge Sequence which recommends studying Egypt in First Grade. We go even more in depth than the curriculum recommends though, including art, history, geography, and Bible in our study of Egypt.
That sounds complicated. How do you incorporate Egypt into so many subjects?
We study the history and geography of Ancient Egypt, which helps enrich in the Bible lessons too because the students have a historical context for the study of Joseph, Moses, and the Israelites. They know the geography of the Red Sea and Mt. Sinai. They know about the different gods of Egypt which helps them understand the 10 plagues better since each plague targeted a specific Egyptian god. They learn that the one true God is saying through the plagues that “I am greater than these gods. They are powerless.” We also choose poetry, songs, and Bible verses that go with the Egyptian unit, and they complete several Egyptian projects in Art Class. They even learn the song “Go Down, Moses” in Music Class with Mrs. Cleveland.
What did your students perform for everyone at the History Night assembly?
They dressed up in Egyptian garb and performed the poem “Upper Egypt, Lower Egypt”, which explains in a humorous way the unusual geography of the land.
How did you recreate Ancient Egypt in your classroom?
We created it to look like you were in Egypt with the Nile on the West Bank (on the right as you walked in) and the Tomb on the East (on the left as you walked in). Once you fully entered the classroom, it was decorated to look like you were inside a pyramid in an Egyptian tomb. We even dimmed the lights by painting Egyptian designs onto the ceiling tiles.
What are your favorite parts of History Night?
I love watching the kids get so excited about history. They really understand and see the connections between history and all the other subjects. They could not wait for History Night this year. They got dressed up in character and they stayed in character. The whole experience makes history come alive for them. If I’d had this as a kid I would’ve eaten it up. I didn’t learn about Egypt or Greece or Rome or Japan when I was younger.
Also, I have to compliment all of our Lower School aides. I would’ve been so stressed without their assistance. They were an enormous help with special projects. Beth Campbell, in particular, was quick and efficient in helping with outlining the designs on the ceiling tiles to prepare them to be painted, helping with the displays, and putting up and taking down the drop-cloths.
On to a completely different part of the world! Time to talk with Mrs. Collyn Capp in Second Grade.
We’ve been through Native American History and Ancient Egypt. What did the Second Grade represent on History Night?
We were Ancient China! Throughout the year we study three Asian countries: Ancient China, Ancient India, and Modern Japan. We study each country’s map, landscape, food, clothing, art, technology, and education. For China, we study how it became a civilization and what its traditions are, including why and how they worship their ancestors. We also study the Chinese language, and the students learn calligraphy to write Chinese characters. They learn both ancient and modern characters and then compare the two. One part that is especially fun about the China unit is learning about their different festivals and celebrating the Chinese New Year.
Sounds like fun! What projects do you complete as part of your Ancient China unit?
The students do several art projects with art teacher Mrs. Stephanie Rico throughout the year, including both flat and 3-D clay projects. In the classroom they learn Chinese calligraphy and create clay models of the Great Wall of China. During our New Year celebration, they created Chinese lanterns decorated with calligraphy, and they sponge painted dragons since it’s the Year of the Dragon.
How did the Second Graders represent Ancient China during the History Night assembly?
They marched in wearing the dragon masks they made, and as a class they simulated the movements of a giant dragon just as people in a Chinese parade would do. Then they performed a Chinese song and pantomime about fishing called “Wang U Ger”.
What did visitors see when they walked into your classroom?
We covered the walls with red and white. Red is a very important color in China. In ancient times, they used the color to scare away evil spirits, and now it has become tradition to decorate with red, especially around the Chinese New Year. We also displayed the different projects they completed during our Ancient China unit, including their calligraphy, their clay models of the Great Wall of China, the Chinese lanterns, and their sponge painted dragons. They also displayed the “Great Wall of Guesses”, which was a fun game for visitors to our classroom. Because several of the ancient Chinese characters actually resembled the objects they represented, the students created a wall of Chinese characters for visitors to look at and guess their meaning. On the back of each character was the English translation.
What do you enjoy most about History Night each year?
I love seeing the parents come in and out and look at their children’s work, but I especially love when students from the past come into the classroom and look around saying, “I remember this! I remember that!” I also love it when future students come in and get excited about what they’ll be studying the next year.
Let’s march on over to Third Grade and speak with Emily Young and Katie Blumenstein about their adventures in history this year!
What did the two sections of Third Grade represent on History Night?
We had two classrooms representing two of the units we studied in history: Ancient Rome and The Vikings.
Sounds like a lot of work! How did you prepare for the big event?
Our “Julius Caesar” play, a Third Grade highlight, kicks off our preparations for History Night. This year the students made five projects in Art Class with Mrs. Stephanie Rico (still life drawings, life portraits, frescos, mosaics, and clay rune necklaces) all in preparation for History Night. In class, they made Viking shields and longship drawings in preparation for History Night. We even did projects on History Day that we displayed on History Night! We like to tie in other subjects with our history lessons too as much as we can, including the writing process, research skills, a little math here and there.
Which of the two era did your classes focus on for their performance at the History Night assembly?
The Third Grade performed the Lupercalia festival dance at the opening program. Representing Ancient Rome, it was a scene from our Julius Caesar play that we performed last December at the end of our classroom study of Ancient Rome.
Can you describe for us how involved the students are in putting on History Night?
The students have significant involvement and investment in making History Night a success. For example, we had a project day, where the students helped to create the bigger pieces that made up our History Night rooms, as well as many other small prep jobs. Additionally, every student had an important job on History Night itself, whether it was acting as a “living statue” and reciting one of their lines from our “Julius Caesar” play, acting as a Viking in our still life scene, or welcoming people to our room and answering questions or offering additional information.
How did your individual classrooms represent The Vikings and Ancient Rome?
We featured the longship in our Viking classroom, because the technology of the longship was central to the Viking Age. The other room represented Ancient Rome with Roman pillars and statues. Both classrooms featured primarily student-created art and displays. Doing these projects is what makes this history become relevant and memorable to them.
What is your favorite part of History Night?
Our favorite part is how excited the kids are to be there and show their parents through history. They took their roles very seriously and did a fabulous job! We also love History Day. It’s a fabulous part of our History Night celebration. Throughout the day leading up to History Night, every grade plays games, watches movies, and makes crafts all specifically tied to the era in History that they have studied and that their classroom represents.
Thanks Third Grade! Let’s take a look back to the Middle Ages and say hello to Fourth Grade teacher Cindy Danner!
What country and/or era did your class represent?
The Middle Ages!
Is History Night only about history in your class, or do you incorporate other subjects as you study the Middle Ages?
We study Europe, China, and Africa in the Middle Ages throughout the year. We structure the classroom around the theme of the Middle Ages: I’m the queen, and the classroom is set up in guilds. We have a lord or lady of the day that is my helper. The children earn jewels for obeying our Code of Chivalry. Every six weeks we have a Marketplace that is tied into independent reading goals. In Bible we memorize Ephesians 6. Every fourth verse that is said correctly, the children add a piece of armor to their knight. At the end of the year Mr. Zimmerman crowns each Fourth Grader a knight of Christ.
What projects throughout the year prepare you and your students for the big night?
The Pilgrimage, set in 14th century England, is an important project. It’s a play about a group of pilgrims setting out on the long journey to Jerusalem. Mrs. Cleveland had the Fifth Grade Music Class play the musical instruments for our songs. Two Fifth Graders wrote songs for The Pilgrimage, they had a Read-Aloud time with Robin Hood with an assigned picture chapter chart, and with art projects included, Cantering Across Fourth Grade helps the children tune a mode of travel during the Middle Ages. The Fourth Grade also had the privilege to attend an educational matinee at Medieval Times dressed in their costumes after performing The Pilgrimage that morning.
That sounds like a lot of fun! How did you recreate the Middle Ages in your classroom for History Night?
We transformed the classroom into a Monastery because the monks were given the responsibility for education, service, and religion.
What did your students perform for the assembly?
The Pilgrim Song and the Medieval dance performed for the knight in Scene IV of The Pilgrimage. The children were dressed as pilgrims, knights, and ladies and performed two sections of the Medieval play.
What are your favorite parts of History Night?
I love having parents and children who do not know about the Middle Ages coming into the Monastery and listening to my “monks” discuss Celtic crosses, why books were chained to the walls, what they found interesting that was included in the monastery, and discussing illuminations.
Several teachers have talked about the volunteers who helped pull History Night off. How involved were the volunteers in the process?
This wonderful event could not have happened without them. Mrs. Reeder spent hours planning the History Day schedule and organizing the materials for the crafts. Mrs. Crocker, Mrs. Gilbert, and Mrs. Wilgenburg set up and guided our children through the Medieval outdoor games. Mrs. Kuester shared many wonderful artifacts and did an amazing job decorating Founders Hall. Mr. Carlos made sure that the right furniture was in the right rooms and in the right place. Mrs. Rico spent hours planning and teaching the children about Medieval life and art. Mrs. Mehring shared many tomes for our Medieval library. Mrs. Cleveland taught the children the Medieval song and dance. Also, she taught the Fifth Grade Music students how to play the “Pilgrim Song.” Several volunteers gave of their time to help set up and take down our Monastery: Mrs. Adams, Dr. Tekle, Tahmi Washington, Mark Moran, Kendre Beatty, and Jake Wilson. Student ambassadors helped us set up our rooms and staffed the reception. Mrs. Harlow worked many, many volunteer hours to help me in every way.
From Medieval Times to America! Time to visit teachers Winnie Langelaar and Angie Bakker in the Fifth Grade.
Who were the Fifth Graders for History Night?
How do you tie other subject areas into your study of this era?
We incorporate Language/Literature by tying in two novels to this historical era: Ben and Me and The Witch of Blackbird Pond, which is about a young orphan who leaves her home in Barbados in 1687 and heads to live with her uncle in Wethersfield, Connecticut during the Colonial days. What’s neat about doing this is our First Grade buddies study the Pilgrims, which ties in with our unit as well. In our Wordly Wise books we have some lessons that focus on the Mayflower and how they settled in Plymouth. We also go on a field trip to Accokeek Farm to see an example of a working Colonial Farm.
Impressive! Do the students do any fun projects throughout the year that relate to Colonial America?
In Art Class, Mrs. Rico has the students do projects like pottery, silhouettes, and portraitures that reflect the Colonial period. Tying in with our novels, we teach the students how to knit and make horn books. Horn books are what students used to learn to read in Colonial America. In history class the student studied the 13 colonies through a project. In Math we have a unit on geometry, and each student creates a quilt square using scraps of cloth and gluing them on square poster board. They all are put together on a blank quilt to make a “class quilt.” We also had students choose one of the 13 colonies and prepared a poster sharing specific information such as the leaders, type of government, religious tolerance, reason for organizing, etc.
How did each of you transform your classrooms into Colonial America?
Ms. Langelaar’s Colonial Cabin:
We painted drop cloths and white sheets to make them look similar to logs for a colonial log cabin, and we hung them from the ceiling Next we made tables from classroom desks, and parents donated quilts to lay over the tables, which allowed us to display the student’s work, like the horn books, pottery, math quilts and knitting. On the “walls” we pinned the different artwork the students have made in Art Class. I also have replicas of the different documents, like the declaration of independence, Constitution, Maryland Charter, Maryland Toleration Act. This year the students also prepared a poster board based on one of the 13 colonies which we put up in the cabin. We also solicited artifacts from families to display in the cabins. We owe a HUGE debt of gratitude to Marsha Kuester for filling in the many spaces that help to create terrific looking rooms!
Mrs. Bakker’s Colonial Kitchen:
This year we had both a kitchen and a cabin. My classroom was a kitchen because in colonial America families had a separate shed/kitchen for cooking in order to not run the risk of burning down their house from the cooking fire. We dried some herbs and fruit to display. We also included cooking utensils and a fireplace. For light we used hospitality lights and turned off the main lights. Why? All these things helped to create an ambience/setting of a colonial cabin and kitchen and it gives us a format to display student’s work.
What did your students perform for all of the guests at History Night?
All of the Fifth Grade students performed “The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere”. Also, some of the music class students provided some of the music for the Fourth Grade presentation. These same students also played “Yankee Doodle” on their recorders when the rest of the Fifth Grade students entered for Paul Revere. The poem focuses on the beginning of the Revolutionary War which is at the end of the colonial period.
What do you like most about this annual event?
Ms. Langelaar said, “My favorite part is going home after it’s done and breathing a sigh of relief . Ok, that’s just one of my favorites. It is so neat to see how excited the students are for this event. We had a student absent that day, and when I mentioned that he may not be able to come in the evening, the students said, ‘but this is his last History night!’ I think the next best time is when people visit the rooms. It’s great to be able to ‘dazzle’ parents with the student’s work on display.” Mrs. Bakker said, “Welcoming them into the transformed classroom for the first time on Friday, seeing them perform at History Night, and talking with their parents.”
After the performances and tours through each classroom, everyone headed to a beautifully decorated Founders Hall for the Reception staffed by Student Ambassadors.
If talking with these wonderfully talented teachers hasn’t convinced you that this event is very much worth attending, check out the pictures and read comments from guests at this year’s History Night!
“History Night at WCA brings our wonderful curriculum to life in each classroom. There is a feeling of excitement and anticipation as you literally, walk through history. This is our 5th History Night at the school and every year we learn something new. We also enjoy hearing stories and interesting facts from our children about each time period they study – long after History Night is over! This amazing event has really helped our students learn history in a tangible way. We appreciate all of the hard work it takes to put this together.”
“Where else can you travel a few miles and spend an evening on the Nile of the pharaohs, or drop in on ancient Greece or colonial America, or wander through ancient China or medieval England? It is a tremendous evening.”
“History night is a very impressive and enjoyable night. From the children’s costumes, songs and poems to the rooms transformed to fit their period in history, it all reflects a lot of hard work by both the kids and the teachers. I am thankful my children get to learn about and experience history this way.”
“One great thing about History Night is the creativity and imagination you see around you. The presentation of the materials is outstanding. Many hours are put into preparing for History Night and the teacher’s should be praised for the incredible job they do.”