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Building a Lesson Plan

If they build it, they will learn.

As a part of the history and language arts curriculum at Screven County Middle School in Sylvania, Ga., the 8th graders there have built their own life-size frontier settlement right on the school's campus--complete with a log cabin, smokehouse, stable, springhouse, and livestock.

"It's living history," said Alice Aud, the project's creator and an 8th grade Georgia-history teacher.

For the past six years, the Screven County students have created a frontier settlement in the fall and then an Indian village in the spring, allowing them to get a good idea of what life on the frontier was like during the pre-Civil War era.

Until this year, there was no budget for the project, so Ms. Aud relied on students, parents, and the community for donations. This year, the school received a $5,000 grant. But the community still supplies the school with animals for the stable, and local residents also volunteer much of their time to help out.

While the project has grown larger each year, some things remain the same: Students still must put in a lot of time and thought even before they are allowed to begin construction.

Students are required to write a paper on the subject and to create a project outline that includes all the tools and resources they will need to get started.

When the preparation is done, students spend 10 to 13 days in construction. After completion, the school site is open for tours.

Elementary students and members of the community get the chance to visit and watch student demonstrations on candlemaking, deer tanning, woodworking, gunsmithing, and many other trades they have researched.

"Students are involved in every stage of learning," Ms. Aud said. She estimates that at least 2,000 visitors stop through the settlement each year, and that more than 1,000 students have participated in the program.

"One of the things that this program does is address all students, at all levels, and all abilities," Ms. Aud said. "It is a great leveler."


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