Elementary education students at OBU recently showcased their creativity and dedication to immersive learning by hosting an interactive children's museum project for more than 80 fifth graders from Will Rogers Elementary School on the OBU campus.
The event, titled "Fairytale vs. Reality: A Medieval Study," aimed to expose young students to the realities of medieval life versus the romanticized versions often found in fairytales. This was created by students in the Social Studies Teaching Methods course taught by Dr. Jeanne Akin, OBU Mary A. White Professor of Education.
“The education students get to pick their own topics for these,” Akin said. “They are all seniors who have studied Western Civilization and are passionate about this era. These students will be doing their student teaching in the spring. I want my students to go out and teach social studies in a way that's not boring but meaningful and makes a difference."
The interactive museum was divided into four distinct chapters: Feudalism, Ye Old Knights, Arts and Black Death. Each chapter provided a hands-on experience for the visiting fifth graders, allowing them to immerse themselves in the historical context.
In the “Feudalism” section, students participated in a game that simulated the social hierarchy of the time. They started with coins and engaged in various activities, periodically having to pay "taxes" to the lord and vassal. This activity aimed to illustrate the disparities in wealth and privilege during the feudal era.
“Ye Old Knights” offered a glimpse into the life of knights, complete with jousting demonstrations and discussions about chivalry and nobility. Students had the opportunity to create their own family shields, further connecting them to the medieval world.
The “Arts” chapter exposed students to medieval music, artwork, and even a Shakespearean readers theatre, featuring a kid-friendly version of "Romeo and Juliet." Children also had the chance to try their hand at sketching and painting using materials reminiscent of the time.
The “Black Death” section delved into the harsh realities of medieval life, including the infamous plague. Students explored marketplaces, planted seeds as farmers, learned about bread-making, forged iron swords as blacksmiths, and even hunted rats on a "sailor's" boat to simulate the spread of the plague. The museum also featured an infirmary and a cemetery, highlighting the challenges and losses faced during this historic pandemic.
Emma Kidd, a 2020 elementary education graduate from OBU and now fifth-grade teacher at Will Rogers, emphasized the significance of such interactive learning experiences, saying, "It's very rare to get opportunities like this where it's so interactive and really fun. They will remember it forever."
Michelle Bryson, also a fifth-grade teacher at Will Rogers, expressed her delight at the engagement the museum generated among the young learners. "I love watching their faces for their reactions,” she said. “History is coming alive for them.”
The interactive children's museum at OBU not only provided an enriching educational experience for the visiting fifth graders but also served as a valuable learning opportunity for OBU's senior education majors.
Student creators included: Lauren Allen, Kate Bannister, Joryn Derry, Jenna Gaches, Channing Hopkins, Nathan Ivanoff, Jane Ellen Mann, Hannah Mehlhaff, Destiny Mincher, Amberlee O'Dowd, Braedon Pitsch, Joanna Potter, Faythe Price, Elisabeth Reynolds, Emily Womack, and Isabella Zwiesler.
Gaches said, “There was a moment when we were doing the readers theatre that all the kids were getting super into their characters and putting their own personalities into the readings. That was so rewarding for me to see that this activity was fun and interesting to them, and it was a great way to work on their oral reading skills.”
This innovative project aligns with OBU’s commitment to fostering academic quality, workforce preparation, and a holistic education that integrates faith into every aspect of learning.
“This teaching opportunity was a great way to gain all sorts of ideas and activities I can use and plan for in my future classrooms,” Gaches said. “I want to make sure my students are engaged in what we're doing in the classroom and the hands-on activities done today throughout all the sections are inspirations for moving that into a classroom setting.”