Birth of a Sim... History Mystery!

Post date: Nov 12, 2014 11:42:30 PM

Lewis and Clark are coming. I don't like Lewis and Clark. I mean, not personally of course, I'm sure they were fine gentlemen. I just don't care for them as a historical topic. I know the students tend to enjoy though so I decided I'd give it the ol' Next Level treatment. I decided to follow my own recent instructions on creating a simulation.

I started with the "What do I want them to learn?" step by asking on Twitter what students should learn about Lewis and Clark. I got a whopping zero replies. It seems I'm not the only one asking why exactly they matter. So, I turned to source 2: Google. I found an essay literally titled "Why Lewis and Clark Don't Matter" and countless explanations of how in their time they were rarely mentioned. Not quite the start I was hoping for. Still, I found out a bunch of ancillary details that I felt could fit into a simulation.

I imagined drawing the Missouri River in blue chalk outside of my classroom door, leading my students on a walk across campus, doing detail reliefs of plants as we walked, passing through a "friendly" classroom and offering candy to the "natives" and then drawing our school mascot as an unknown creature. I started putting together an intro and fixated on the Jefferson Peace Medals. What if each of my kids got one? That would be memorable. I could make pins for their lanyards!

Then I had a weekend "off." By that I mean my next two weeks are fully planned. I was free to explore as I wished. I went on Amazon Instant and found a few documentaries about Lewis and Clark that I decided to watch. I got to America Unearthed (which is about as historically accurate as Ancient Aliens in most cases) and saw it had a episode on Lewis' Death. Look, I'll be honest, I didn't even know his death was a thing. (Apologies to my Grandfather who loves Lewis and Clark and lives mere yards from one of their stops on the Nez Perce trail.) Apparently he committed suicide... or didn't... and there was some mystery to it.

Well now, there's something worth doing - inquiry!

I watched the episode and it offered almost nothing of value beyond getting me on the topic. It does have some slick visuals and a sweet introduction that will likely be how I intro the topic to my kids.

Yes, this is where I'm going now. Sorry simulation plans, I'm on a historical inquiry trail and there's no stopping me once that happens.

I found another show on the topic (Dave Metzler's Decoded) that was much better. I went online and found quite a few great resources. Amazon even has a few books I'll likely order to flesh things out. Then today I hit the jackpot. Apparently, someone has already done most of the work for me. I found this lesson plan while searching for a specific letter referenced on another site. This plan is a collection of primary source documents relating to Lewis and Clark - and specifically Lewis' death.

I had already started piecing out my 8 exhibits in my head figuring the next step - finding all the sources - would be the bulk of my work but here was a hefty chunk of sources already curated for me. Now sure, it won't have everything I want (a wanted poster for bandits near where Lewis died was sadly not to be found) but this is a great jumpstart. Now I just have to turn them into realistic looking things, write up the guiding questions, create an introduction and I'm good to go.

I will post more updates as the creation progresses so you can see clearly how I get from point A to point L or M or wherever the heck I end up.

Here is the file so far after one day of building: History Mystery: Lewis' Death

One never knows when the creative process will kick in. I did not have any idea when I started with this that I'd end it by designing my latest History Mystery. Teaching is an unbelievably creative occupation when one wants it to be. Don't let your personal biases stop you from creating experiences for your students. They deserve it!

And just for fun, here's what the simulation looked like before I was distracted by shiny things.