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"Virtual History Day" Encourages Reflection on Process, Accomplishment

"Virtual History Day" Encourages Reflection on Process, Accomplishment
Tutt Stapp-McKiernan


“Meta-learning” is a trending term in 21st-century education, referring to the process by which any learner examines the mechanisms, process, and results of his or her own learning. As recent student work posted by the Wakefield Social Studies Department reveals, this important step of self-reflection is being included as an active part of Wakefield students’ educational experience.

In February,  Wakefield School's Social Studies Virtual Showcase went live for viewing. In a "normal" year, the Social Studies Department would have hosted their in-person Upper School History Night in conjunction with the Middle School National History Day competition.  Due to restrictions on in-person events, however, the department decided to pivot to a virtual format.

In this annual event, 7th and 8th grade students display projects created in response to the theme established for that year for National History Day, which for 2021 was Communication in History: the Key to Understanding. The Virtual Showcase displayed the websites that Wakefield’s 7th and 8th grade students had created around this theme.

Since students in 6th and 9th grades do not participate in National History Day, however, they were given the opportunity to display their choices from among projects they had completed thus far this year for their Social Studies courses. 

And in addition to the projects themselves, 6th grade World Geography teacher Terry Lowry and 9th grade World Civ 2 teacher Peter Findler asked their students to explain why they had chosen the projects they chose and/or why they were proud of them. Though many of the projects were outstanding, the students’ reflections on their own work and results were the secret sauce that made the online displays so compelling.


Here are the 6th grade World Geography project choices:

  • Five Themes of Geography Magazine Cover - Design a magazine cover that reflects the five themes of geography - movement, region, human-environment interaction, location, and place - for a country or region of your choice.

  • Digital Culture Collage - Create a website that showcases the seven universal aspects of culture - social organization, language, customs & traditions, arts & literature, religion, forms of government, and economic systems.

  • Amazon Rainforest Position Paper - As the final activity of our multi-week project examining the Amazon rainforest land-use conflict, write three paragraphs explaining your ideas on how to best preserve and use the resources of the Amazon rainforest.

  • Nelson Mandela Instagram - Create a fictitious Instagram account for Nelson Mandela including pictures that reflect his actual life experiences and accomplishments, accompanied by appropriate captions, hashtags, and "liked by" references.

  • Mapping Lab - Mapping labs are done for each regional unit of study. 

And here are samples of 6th grade students’ “meta-learning,” their reflections on what they were proud of having taken away from the projects they chose to share (links to projects are live):

SLOANE BOYLE--Digital Culture Collage. “I remember spending hours working on this project, and I enjoyed it. It seemed like a very adult project and got me working harder because I knew I would have projects like this in the future; I learned skills for technology, how to set up websites. I also learned a lot about culture in this project.”

LUKE MCDONOUGH--Amazon Rainforest Position Paper.  “I chose this assignment because it is one of my favorite papers that I have ever written. Also, I really like my solution and hope people agree.”

SILAS PETERLIN--Amazon Rainforest Position Paper.  “I selected this assignment to display because I worked very hard on it and I believe in what I wrote.”

CECI TURNER--Mandela Instagram.  “I chose this project to display because people need to see that everyone is equal and that it isn't right to treat certain people a different way.”

ANNABELLE PARKER--Five Themes Magazine Cover.  “I chose this project to display because it showcased my tech skills and geography skills. I worked hard on formatting the photos and compiling and organizing the information. I had fun doing this project and learned some of the religion and weather of Ireland.”


Projects for 9th-grade World Civ 2 students:

  • Age of Exploration -  Google Earth Tour: Design a tour that demonstrates your knowledge and understanding of the voyage of one explorer from 1400 - 1700.  In your work, be sure to include at least one primary source, locations of at least three continents, and sensitivity to the effects of Exploration on indigenous peoples.

  • Semester 1 Final Project - Virtual Museum: Design a virtual museum space that showcases your knowledge and understanding of four eras of early modern world history: The Renaissance, The Age of Exploration, The Protestant Reformation, and The Scientific Revolution.  In the museum, select two primary sources from each era and explain the object and its historical context.  Be sure to include links that click through as if the viewer were browsing a museum.

  • Enlightenment and Age of Revolution - Essay: Write a minimum 3-page paper that details the effects of the Enlightenment on one non-European revolution from 1800 - 1900.  Be sure to include information about the causes and effects of the Revolution.

And some 9th grade reflections and take-aways:

VIVIAN PICKERAL--Virtual Museum.  “I chose this project because I had a lot of fun creating it and I am very proud of how it turned out, and the whole concept of the project is fun. I think it explains more than one subject and includes the information in a fun creative way.  I think my use of historical context in my research was very specific and It was fascinating how I was able to display it in the format of a museum.”

LUKE LINARES--Virtual Museum.  “I chose this project because I felt that it was my best work out of all of the other projects. The different art and items that are shown in the museum are very important to their respective time periods, and I feel that putting these in it helps make my presentation much more interesting.”

KEIRA SMITH--Virtual Museum.  “I chose this project because I felt it was my best project and I honestly liked the result I got from the amount of time I put into it. I am really proud of the things I wrote and the images as stated previously. This is because I actually felt confident about what I wrote and I liked the images that complemented them.”

SYDNEY KELBLE--Virtual Museum.  “I chose to submit this project because I feel as though it is the best representation of my work in World Civilizations II this year so far, and because it will hopefully be entertaining to its viewers. I also feel as though the design elements of the museum galleries along with the descriptions of my primary sources are representative of my best work.”

HAYLEE CHOBY--Virtual Museum:  “I chose this project because I think it is some of my best work from this class.  I am most proud of my craftsmanship and the time I spent on it.”

AVERY HARSHBERGER--Virtual Museum.  “I chose this project because I believe this is a piece of high-quality work done by me. I feel that I did very well on the descriptions and historical context explanations for each individual primary source in the ‘museum.’ ”

JAMES LATIMER--Virtual Museum.  “I chose this project because I felt that out of all my projects I’ve completed for this year, I put the most effort into this particular one. I like the neatness and ‘wholeness’ of the project that made it feel satisfying to complete.”

LEXI VAN DER WOUDE--Virtual Museum.  “I chose to submit this project because I feel like it best represents my work this year. I feel it is very creative which I like, and I worked very hard on it and it was very fun to do.”