An engaging virtual field trip ferried our fifth-graders back in time to 1770 for the trial of the Boston Massacre.
Thanks to the digital prowess of Skype, students were whisked to The Boston Tea Party Ships & Museum where they participated in a reenactment of the historic trial that saw John Adams defend Captain Thomas Preston and his British soldiers.
“This court is officially in session. The eyes now are all upon us,” said the museum role player who portrayed John Adams.
Museum educators were appropriately dressed in period costumes and staged props depicted a court room with a witness stand. Students each had their own roles as well; portraying jurors, witnesses, magistrates, and co-counsels. Scripts in hand, students publicly read their lines in the back-and-forth exchange of the trial.
Following the trial’s conclusion, one fifth-grader inquired about the quotes cited on each script. The students wondered if what they read had been the exact words used by actual witnesses at the time. Once learning that yes, some of the verbiage was indeed word for word, fifth-grade teacher Emily Schimelman reminded students about a term they had previously learned in class: “primary sources.”
“The way we teach history is by using the primary sources we have available to us,” said Mrs. Schimelman.
The riveting reenactment truly engaged students and harkened back to the words of another American patriot: Benjamin Franklin, who noted “Tell me, and I forget, teach me, and I remember, involve me, and I learn.”
The virtual field trip was a learning component of a social studies unit on the American Revolution for the fifth-graders. Next up for the students is the annual Living History Museum on April 11.
“We’ve been learning about the many causes of the war, including the Boston Massacre, so this was a great extension activity and a fun way to get them excited for the Living History Museum,” explained Mrs. Schimelman.
The action during the trial heated up with shouts of “Objection, your Honor!” as witnesses presented their testimony and the co-counsels followed up with questioning. Following closing statements, jury members deliberated and offered their verdict.
“As a jury, we find the redcoats guilty because they have to be able to withstand a snowball and their weapons shouldn’t have been loaded,” stated the lead juror.
Museum educators further questioned students to see if any of them disagreed with the verdict. Seven fifth-graders did indeed disagree and offered their reasons why.
“I think the soldiers weren’t guilty because if someone throws snowballs and rocks then they were taunting the soldiers,” maintained one student.