Close Encounters with Famous Explorers
Fourth grade students finished their unit on explorers this week with a biographical research project and presentation. Social studies teacher Ward Russell asked his students to learn about the life and accomplishments of a well-known explorer, distill that information into a presentation, and then deliver it in front of the class dressed in the costume - or at least the spirit - of their chosen explorer!
During this unit, Ward stayed focused on the driving forces behind exploration rather than individual explorers leaving it to students to identify the historical periods, types of exploration, and individuals that interested them most. Having already researched Native American tribes in April, the fourth grade students continue to hone their non-fiction research skills. This year, students have been working on the essential skills of identifying a reliable resource, highlighting the essential information in a text, taking notes, and presenting their information as clearly and concisely as possible. Ward gave students a week to research their explorers and craft their presentations, which they delivered to their classmates.
Students chose many different kinds of explorers, from the traditional conquistadors of the 1500s to individuals who explored new species and planets. Phoebe O. ‘26, dressed in shark slippers, goggles, and carrying an inflatable shark, shared the life story of Dr. Eugene Clark, known as the “shark lady” who studied and swam with sharks even though “many people thought women weren’t smart enough.” In an Italian accent, Camden F. ‘26 shared the life story of Astronomer Galileo Galilei and talked about how he built a new kind of telescope and used it to identify new stars and the craters and mountains on the moon. Wearing a helmet with a face shield and carrying a sword and shield, Samuel M. ‘26 made a convincing Hernán Cortés, the Spanish Conquistador who conquered much of Mexico and brought down the Aztec Empire. Samuel began and ended his presentation with Cortés’ famous exclamation, “It is better to die with honor than live with disgrace!”
In their presentations, students had a chance to work on their public speaking skills as they juggled the challenge of using notecards, managing helmets, wigs, and props, and delivering their presentation in character. In addition to recognizing students for the excellent research and delivery of their presentations, Ward also applauded their creativity and imagination in sharing their explorer with the class.