Opinion
Education Opinion

Doing Real History in High School: The Wayland High School History Project

By Justin Reich — June 22, 2015 2 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

Receiving an email from Wayland, Massachusetts History Department Head Kevin Delaney is always a special treat. Every other year or so, Kevin notifies me about the latest installment of the Wayland High School History Project, a series of very deep historical investigations at the intersection of local people and global issues. Students in Kevin’s classes closely research a historical figure from Wayland and his or her connections to the major issues of their time. They compose a biography of the subject’s life, and post it online, along with an annotated archive of the source materials. It’s a wondeful combination of old-fashioned historical inquiry and networked, multimedia publication. Previous years have focused on the life stories of Wayland’s Vietnam Veterans, and the extraordinary story of Lt. Col. Martin W. Joyce, who became the commanding offer of the Dachau concentration camp after the liberation by the Allies (the latter is now in talks to be turned into a film).

This year the project focused on a suffragate from the World War I era, Jessica Lord Cox Henderson. Students asked the question: “So how does a rather ordinary woman, born in Pittston Maine and subsequently spending most of her adult years in Wayland, end up raising a traditional family while simultaneously raising hell?”

Wayland students celebrating Henderson’s 148th birthday.

From the project introduction, Mr. Delaney writes:

A mother of six and an uncompromising activist of national repute, Henderson hijacked our classes' plans to delve into multiple early 20th century domestic themes, and we instead exhumed what turned out to be her incredible story. In a whirlwind of action akin to Theodore Roosevelt, Henderson both embraced and spearheaded multiple causes, most notably joining Alice Paul on the front lines of the suffrage movement and proudly serving jail time for her audacious belief that women should not only have the right to vote, but must also have the constitutional protections of full and equal rights. A pacifist during the World War, Henderson openly defied mainstream patriotism, believing the war was in the interests of plutocrats and corporatists alone, ultimately resulting in an official investigation (we even discovered her Bureau of Investigation file). As the 1920's began to roar, we find Mrs. Henderson serving as one of the key figures in the Sacco-Vanzetti defense effort, meanwhile moving progressively further left in her political orientation despite, and enabled by, her significant wealth. Whether it was suffrage, social justice, pacifism, or anti-vivisection, her commitment to cause was unflappable.

Students wrote her life story in five chapters, describing her early life, campaigns on the three V (vivisection, vegetarianism, and vaccination), pacifism, suffrage, and political radicalism. The chapters are illustrated with primary source photographs and news clippings, and they portray the life of an activist committed to a variety of causes over her life, stitching together mentions of Henderson in news media and secondary courses to pull together a complete and compelling picture of her life.

What continues to strike me about the Wayland History Project is that students are engaged in real, meaningful historical work. The investigations that students conduct make a true contribution to our understanding of one small town’s most interesting citizens, and a broader sense of the political and social currents of the time. The Wayland History Project is a fabulous example of how new technologies allow students to engage in authentic scholarly practice, and share their work with other.

For regular updates, follow me on Twitter at @bjfr and for my publications, C.V., and online portfolio, visit EdTechResearcher.

Related Tags:

The opinions expressed in EdTech Researcher are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.

Events

Classroom Technology Webinar How Pandemic Tech Is (and Is Not) Transforming K-12 Schools
The COVID-19 pandemic—and the resulting rise in virtual learning and big investments in digital learning tools— helped educators propel their technology skills to the next level. Teachers have become more adept at using learning management
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Student Well-Being Webinar
Building Teacher Capacity for Social-Emotional Learning
Set goals that support adult well-being and social-emotional learning: register today!


Content provided by Panorama
Jobs October 2021 Virtual Career Fair for Teachers and K-12 Staff
Find teaching jobs and other jobs in K-12 education at the EdWeek Top School Jobs virtual career fair.

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Education Tiny Wrists in Cuffs: How Police Use Force Against Children
An investigation finds children as young as 6 and a disproportionate amount of Black children have been handled forcibly by police officers.
15 min read
Jhaimarion, 10, reacts as he listens to his mother, Krystal Archie talking with an Associated Press reporter in Chicago on Sept. 23, 2021. Archie’s three children were present when police, on two occasions, just 11 weeks apart, kicked open her front door and tore through their home searching for drug suspects. She’d never heard of the people they were hunting. Her oldest child, Savannah was 14 at the time; her youngest, Jhaimarion, was seven. They were ordered to get down on the floor.
Jhaimarion, 10, reacts as he listens to his mother, Krystal Archie talking with an Associated Press reporter in Chicago on Sept. 23, 2021. Archie’s three children were present when police, on two occasions, just 11 weeks apart, kicked open her front door and tore through their home searching for drug suspects. She’d never heard of the people they were hunting. Her oldest child, Savannah was 14 at the time; her youngest, Jhaimarion, was seven. They were ordered to get down on the floor.
Nam Y. Huh/AP
Education Gunman in 2018 Parkland School Massacre Pleads Guilty
A jury will decide whether Nikolas Cruz will be executed for one of the nation’s deadliest school shootings.
3 min read
Annika Dworet and her husband, Mitch Dworet, wipe away tears as their son's name is read aloud during Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooter Nikolas Cruz's guilty plea on all 17 counts of premeditated murder and 17 counts of attempted murder in the 2018 shootings, at the Broward County Courthouse in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. on Wednesday, Oct. 20, 2021. The Dworet's son, Nicholas Dworet, 17, was killed in the massacre.
Annika Dworet and her husband, Mitch Dworet, wipe away tears as their son's name is read aloud during Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooter Nikolas Cruz's guilty plea on all 17 counts of premeditated murder and 17 counts of attempted murder in the 2018 shootings, at the Broward County Courthouse in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. on Wednesday, Oct. 20, 2021. The Dworet's son, Nicholas Dworet, 17, was killed in the massacre.
Amy Beth Bennett/South Florida Sun Sentinel via AP
Education Briefly Stated: October 20, 2021
Here's a look at some recent Education Week articles you may have missed.
8 min read
Education Gunman in Parkland School Massacre to Plead Guilty
The gunman who killed 14 students and three staff members at a Florida high school will plead guilty to their murders, his attorneys said.
4 min read
Parkland school shooter Nikolas Cruz is sworn in before pleading guilty, Friday, Oct. 15, 2021, at the Broward County Courthouse in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., on all four criminal counts stemming from his attack on a Broward County jail guard in November 2018, Cruz's lawyers said Friday that he plans to plead guilty to the 2018 massacre at a Parkland high school.
Parkland school shooter Nikolas Cruz is sworn in before pleading guilty, Friday, Oct. 15, 2021, at the Broward County Courthouse in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., on all four criminal counts stemming from his attack on a Broward County jail guard in November 2018, Cruz's lawyers said Friday that he plans to plead guilty to the 2018 massacre at a Parkland high school.
Amy Beth Bennett/South Florida Sun Sentinel via AP