One day I was at an assembly, watching the Art department showcase student work. After their presentation, the middle school band performed a few songs. Admittedly, I got a little jealous.
And, by “a little jealous”, I mean very jealous.
I wanted a way to put history in the spotlight in front of the entire school.
So, what I came up with is the concept of This Day in History. Admittedly, this is not really a new concept. After all, there are many websites devoted to explaining what cool things happened on a given day.What’s new is presenting this history live to students.
1. Get Yourself on Your School’s Assembly Agenda
Assemblies are busy affairs and, if you wait to get yourself noticed while the assembly is already happening, you might find yourself out of time and out of luck. Plus, getting yourself on the agenda also gets you (and your department) noticed by admin. That’s cool!
2. Start Planning
I started researching. Using our school calendar, I found the date of the upcoming assemblies and hit the web to find out what happened on those days. This can be discouraging because the internet will tell you about all kinds of things – too many of them dull, boring or pointless. Does anyone care who won the NL pennant race in 1964? Will students get pumped up about the death of the Duke of Normandy?
3. Find Some Props and Costumes
Assemblies can be a lot of talking. To make your part more noteworthy you could bring objects or artifacts to catch the interest of your students. For instance, at one assembly, I pointed out that it was the 100th anniversary of the patent for the Coca-Cola bottle. I brought a Coke bottle with me and actually opened it at the mic. Although this is not academically noteworthy, the students really connected with it.
Costumes also pump up the interest and excitement. Try to build a collection that gives you maximum flexibility. Powdered wigs and period hats are pretty useful and can connect you to a wide array of historical time periods and cultures.
4. Get Your Colleagues (and Students) Involved!
Nothing makes history come alive more than lots of fun people getting involved. It’s also a great way to vary the voice. One time my department reenacted the signing of the U.S. Constitution. The more was definitely the merrier – we were interacting and even added a soundtrack.
Assemblies can be pretty dry and the This Day in History concept, if handled well, can be an engaging tonic. Students love the costumes and, with the right topic, can really build affection for your course and yourself.
I am currently working on having a bulletin board put up in a central location where I can post daily This Day in History notices.
TCI’s History Alive? Oh, I am keeping history alive!