"We prepare students to engage in the world that is and to help bring about a world that ought to be."

Facing History

Marcus Leslie, Grade 4 Teacher

Facing History

Grade 4 students research historical American migrations in their capstone project
Traditionally Friends Seminary Grade 4 students have worked on a culminating capstone project that aims to showcase their learning at the end of their Lower School experience. The capstone project formerly known as Prairie Day focused on studies around the Westward Expansion phase of the growth of the United States as a country and challenged students to research a topic related to this era, write an expository report based on their research, create an informative poster, and craft an artifact to be used as a teaching tool. In a typical school year, a morning was set aside for the Gym to be turned into an exhibition center for parents and peers to celebrate this learning experience with the fourth graders.

Over the years, Prairie Day has evolved with the mission to offer more equity and further opportunities for peer collaboration. Moreover, the School was closed just two days before the 2020 event due to the pandemic. These critical factors led the Lower School to evolve and develop alternative online plans and reevaluate the capstone project. This year, the fourth grade teaching team, in collaboration with former Assistant Head of Lower School, Kelly Grimmett, used Critical Friends protocols to develop a new offering through which to exemplify the Lower School learning experience. 

Now titled American Migrations: People, Power, and Perspectives, the project incorporates research, expository writing, primary source analysis, creative writing, website construction and making a fictional artifact. This project weaves learning from social studies, english language arts, library, and creative art curriculum strands. Students conducted their research around one of five historical American migrations that were either influenced by a government action or had an effect on immigration to this country. The contexts were selected from the following:

•  The Indian Removal Act of 1830
•  The Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882
•  The Great Migration starting circa 1916
•  The Immigration Act of 1924
•  The Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938

The breadth of these contexts aims to highlight the diversity of the U.S. population while also developing an awareness of the challenges faced by often underrepresented groups.

Alongside their research and writing, students were tasked with identifying and annotating primary sources from the era and explaining the relevance to the situation. They also built a Google Site to display their learning. To inject an element of hands-on creativity, teachers tasked students to construct their own historical-fiction artifact to present as a ‘primary source’ and describe its significance through creative writing.

Photos of the Event

Thanks to the ingenuity and creativity of the Lower School, Grade 4 students were able to share their capstone projects with members of the community this month while adhering to safety protocols. Click here to view a selection of photos from the Grade 4 American Migrations presentation in May 2021.

Reflections from the Community

"One of the most interesting things I have learned is that the United States favored some people over others just because of the amount of money they had. It's interesting because in the constitution it says that everyone is equal."  –Student

"I learned how to research and use information in paragraphs and transform the text into my own words. I also learned how to make an artifact using the information from websites and books. I also learned how to make a site and make a format that people can easily get used to. I learned how to analyze and take small details from any kind of primary source or item."  –Student

"Every child felt a greater sense of accomplishment and connection to the work. The American experience was represented in a way that felt honest. As a Quaker institution, we have an abolitionist history that has survived hundreds of years in service of creating a more equitable American experience. This project was absolutely developmentally appropriate. Children learned facts, created artifacts, examined primary sources, wrote creatively and spoke their Truth! It was powerful. It was an exemplar of a high-quality Friends education."  –Faculty & Staff Member

"(My child) seemed to enjoy the project and was engaged. The amount of work required and time commitment seemed very manageable within school time. The different components of the project (research, write up, artifacts, presentation, etc) I think is valuable for the kids in seeing something end to end. Loved the outdoor presentation as I had seen the work in a different stage, hearing it, and seeing the finished product, artifact, binder, QR code etc. I was really impressed by how much (my child) put into it, and it all came together beautifully. It was so nice to see how proud (they were) of (their) work."  –Parent
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Friends Seminary — the oldest continuously operated, coeducational school in NYC — serves college-bound day students in Kindergarten-Grade 12.
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