A tip o’ the hat to Antioch Educating For Sustainability alum Matt Diller for this video and blog posting. The video captures a place-based living history written by a third grader from The College School in Webster Groves, Missouri. Read all about it below!
This video was inspired by a visit to Mastodon State Park seeing and touching Mastodon bones and learning about prehistoric, Paleo-indian Clovis culture. We followed up with experiential activities on our land, throwing with an atlatl that we bought online, flint napping facilitated by a parent, cooking meat on a spit over a fire, tearing of the meat and eating it with our hands, and plenty of “close your eyes and imagine” guided imagery informed by our study of the the past. We also led the children to do an archaeological dig with help from yet another parent on our school’s property at LaBarque Creek. After digging three feet down in sandy soil under a shelter cave, we actually found pottery shards and flint tool flakes from the Woodland period dating 1,000 to 3,000 years ago.
Some students wrote their living histories in “imagined Clovis”, and wrote their own dictionary of imagined Paleo language. The reader had to use the student created dictionary to translate the text. The boy in this video, age nine, read what he wrote as a script to the video. His appearance in the video was from a visit to our land on LaBarque Creek. Kids imagined exactly where it would be most strategic to chase a Mastodon off a real cliff that they have climbed on, or to corner it up against an actual bluff that they know. They have brushed up against ferns and mosses those places that are not abstractions but real and touchable.
This was an important element of place-based education. The students merged their academic and abstract understanding of ten thousand years ago with real topography and features of the land they walk on again and again today. I believe the connection of place and understanding is deeper than academic. It approaches a hidden understanding that we rarely speak of that is potentially spiritual, emotional and transformative. The effort required for this curriculum design was made more sustainable with a strong partnership with parents. The outcome was priceless as is so much project-based, place-based, play-based, experiential and Educating for Sustainability inspired curriculum design.