Riverside Students Take On Historical Figures

COURTESY PHOTO

Riverside School eighth-graders Elsa Eckhardt of St. Johnsbury (as Dame Daphne Sheldrick) and Ethan Devereaux of Lyndonville (as Albert Einstein) talk over the life of Alexander the Great with sixth-grader Elijah Clarke of Granby, who had researched and presented about him, at the school’s annual Biography Fair.

LYNDONVILLE -- If you had walked around The Riverside School during Biography Fair, you might have run into musician Neil Young having a conversation with ancient philosopher Aristotle, or activist Gandhi speaking from behind bars to abolitionist Harriet Tubman.

Biography Fair was the culmination of major research projects in the fourth- through eighth-grade history classes. Students began in September by choosing important people they wanted to learn more about and who were from the time periods they will be studying for the rest of the year.

Fourth and fifth graders presented figures from the European Middle Ages and Renaissance; sixth graders were from classical Greece and Rome; seventh graders were from early American history; and eighth graders were international 20th Century reformers.

All of the projects included a written report, an oral presentation and a visual display. Specific requirements were different at each grade level as the teachers designed their assessments to meet grade level expectations. A seventh-grade display included a time-line of events, while eighth-grade presentations included evidence of critical thinking about the impact of the individual's work.

"The students work really hard on these projects, and it's wonderful to see them shine in distinct ways on the day of Biography Fair," said World Issues teacher Nelia Dwyer, who noted that some students are excellent public speakers while others enjoy the creativity of developing a costume or a poster.

As members of the audience -- teachers, parents, grandparents, other students and local homeschoolers -- listened to presentations and browsed the displays they learned a fair amount of history from the perspectives of these individuals.

"This project is partly about learning about important people from world history, but it's also an exercise in managing a long-term, multi-faceted project," says Head of School Dr. Laurie Boswell. "The teachers help the students make plans, manage their time, and revise each component in order to bring together an impressive display of learning in the end."

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