This spring I was looking for something to give my students and myself a boost at the end of the year with high engagement for everyone. This was my first year back in the classroom after 11 years as an Instructional Coach. I have missed having the energy to work on my family tree during the school year like I used to be able to do and I wanted to end this great school year in an exciting way. Because of my love for genealogy and my desire to bring history and geography to life for my students, I decided to unite the two into an integrated unit that would provide opportunities to apply all of their freshly acquired skills.
Reuben Sigfred Johnson was my grandpa’s youngest brother. He had a very interesting story of travel and adventure in the 1920’s and 30’s and I have always wanted to write about it or display it in some way but could never find the right medium. A lesson plan for 22 second graders was the last thing I thought I would decide on but it has really been the best way I’ve found to work within Reuben’s life story.
I introduced Uncle Reuben to my second graders by telling them some stories about him and showing them some pictures from my genealogy files. The fact that he lived to be 100 and I knew him personally intrigued them and by the time I started telling about the different modes of transportation he used, I had them hooked. The next question for me was how to use the power behind this story to create excitement that would last until the last day of school.