When Indiana fifth graders study history, one of the points of emphasis set forth by state standards is the American Revolution and the founding of the Republic.
One teacher, Columbia City resident Mark Parker, is bringing that time period to life, immersing his students in the sights, sounds, ideas and events of the American Revolution.
Parker has been a teacher at Wolcott Mills Elementary in LaGrange County for nearly 25 years.
His method of teaching his students about one of the most turbulent times in our nation’s history has earned Parker an ING Unsung Hero award.
Each year ING provides grants to educators who utilize new teaching methods and techniques that improve learning.
The projects submitted for the award are judged on innovative method, creativity and the ability to positively influence students.
From the submitted projects, 100 finalists are selected to receive a $2,000 grant to help implement their program. From those finalists, three are chosen for additional grants.
Parker was one of two teachers from Indiana who won a grant this year.
According to the ING website, Parker’s program has each of his students assuming the persona of a loyalist, patriot or neutral and taking on various occupational roles within a fictional Colonial town.
They will write letters based on their point of view and also create journal entries that will be posted on the school’s website.
At the end of the program, the participants will dress and interact as their selected person and present their views in town meetings in log cabins located at a park.
The goal is to encourage students to define their personal beliefs about American independence and learn to evaluate sources of information, the program description said.
Parker has been doing a modified version of this program for the last couple of years, he said in an e-mail.
As a Revolutionary War re-enactor himself and with four sons, he has a limited amount of boys clothing from the time period but is severely limited on resources for the girls in his class. He said he will use the grant money to help alleviate that issue and to expand the program so that it will fulfill more of the program’s objectives.
He said his students love the idea of dressing in character, but getting them to stand up in front of classmates and speak sometimes takes some urging.
“I hope this program will encourage not only that, but also encourage the students to develop and thoughtfully think about their stands, not only on the issues of that time period, but the ones that face them today,” Parker said.