At first, I considered targeting an undergraduate, introductory-level audience for my final project since I hope to one day teach these students. But for right now, I decided that it was more important to create a project that could actually be put to good use right away. Therefore, I have decided to continue on with the theme from my project from this past spring, the Voices of Fort Sackville.
My previous project was aimed at fourth grade students from Indiana studying state history and fifth grade students from around the country studying US History. My current project will be aimed at helping the teachers of these students teach historical thinking skills. I hope to do this by having students examine some of the primary source documents that describe events leading up to and during the American surprise attack on the British at Fort Sackville in 1779.
First of all, I chose this audience, to be consistent with my previous project and because, from a practical standpoint, I have already been reading the primary sources associated with this topic with the mindset of what would be appropriate for fourth and fifth grades. Secondly, my mother is a fourth grade teacher in Indiana and would be able to test this project out in a real classroom setting. Finally, I wanted to disprove the view held by experts and historians in the past that 9 and 10 year-olds do not have the mental capacity to learn to think historically. Instead, I agree with Stéphane Lévesque that it is never too early to start teaching students historical thinking skills. At the same time, as educators and historians, we must acknowledge that these skills and mental processes must be taught. We also must remember that these young students are novices and they should not be held to the same standards as a graduate student or even a high school student. I acknowledge that I will need to start at the ground level of learning with these younger students.
I hope that my project can provide students with one of their first hands-on experience with what a historian actually does. I also hope that it provides teachers with an exercise that helps their students to learn one or two basic concepts about historical thinking.