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How to
Use the Activities


Inquiry Question

Historical Context




Table of

Putting It All Together

The following activities engage students in a number of ways that let them discover how Jefferson's ideas about public education continue to have an impact on their academic environment and lives.

Activity 1: A Village for Learning
Hold a classroom discussion based on the following topic: Thomas Jefferson described the University of Virginia as an "Academical Village." What image does the term "village" evoke in your mind? What aspects of the university's design contribute to its village-like character? In your opinion, is a village a good or bad model for a school today? Explain.

Activity 2: Local Schools
Coordinate with the people in your school or community, including the school media center, the local history museum, records managers for the school board, and former students and faculty, to enable your students to research the history of their school. You may wish to divide large classes into smaller groups or teams since some research facilities may not be able to accommodate large groups. Students should attempt to find out information such as:

  • The name of the architect or architectural firm that designed the school. If possible locate and study the architectural plans and determine if any changes have been made since the school was designed. If the architect is still practicing, invite him or her to speak to the class about his or her intentions for the design of the building(s) and grounds. If this is not possible, have the students hypothesize what they think the architect's intentions were at the time.
  • How the name of the school was selected, who it was named after, if applicable, and how the school mascot, nickname, and colors originated.
  • Who constructed the school, when, and for what price.
  • If there was an inaugural ceremony when the cornerstone was set or the first class entered the school, and what happened at the ceremony. If there was no ceremony, students may want to suggest why none was held. If the first principal or retired teachers from the school would be willing to share their recollections, try to arrange for them to speak to the class.
  • If there has ever been a major renovation due to damage or modernization.
  • Evaluate the impact of the school design on their learning.
  • Suggest structural, decorative, or landscape changes that might improve the school.

Ask students to share their findings in a written report, oral presentation, computer slide-show, model or exhibit.

Activity 3: Education Through the Generations
Ask students to interview their parents, or people from an earlier generation, about the school(s) they attended when they were the students' age. Questions to which they should try to find answers might include:

  • What were some of the physical characteristics of the school and grounds?
  • What was the school curriculum? What was the grading scale?
  • What rules governed the school, including dress codes?
  • What was the student body and faculty like, in terms of gender, ethnicity, race and religion?

Then, have students compare the information they have gathered about past schools with the information they have learned about their own school. Questions to address include:

  • Were there differences that can be accounted for because of geographical location?
  • What changes in the school curriculum can you identify?
  • What changes in the makeup of the student body and faculty can you identify?
  • What differences do you find in the design of the school building and grounds?
  • What reasons and events might explain these changes?

Ask students to present their findings either in an exhibit, computer slide show, oral presentation, or written report.



Comments or Questions

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