One day I was at an assembly, watching the Art department showcase student work. After the 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. I wanted a way to keep history top-of-mind for students and administrators.
So, what I came up with is the concept of “This Day in History”. This is not necessarily a new concept. After all, there are many websites devoted to telling visitors what cool things happened on a given day. What’s new is presenting it live to students.
The first thing I did was to ask my principal to put This Day in History (TDIH) on the agenda for our next assembly. Then I started researching. Using our school calendar, I found the date of the assembly and hit the web to find out what happened that day. This can be discouraging because the internet will tell you about all kinds of things – 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?
So, try to find something that is either relevant for your students, or really well-connected to what you are teaching. 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.
Another driver for choosing an event is your supply of costumes. When presenting a TDIH, I like to wear something related to the topic. Powdered wigs are pretty useful and can connect you to a wide array of historical time periods and cultures.
Assemblies can be pretty dry and the TDIH 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.
I am currently working on having a bulletin board put up in a central location where I can post daily TDIH notices.
TCI’s History Alive? Oh, I am keeping history alive!