Thursday, May 4, 2017

Mary Louise Sanchez: Historical Fiction Museum

One of my favorite PBS shows is Antiques Road Show. It's interesting to see what people bring to the show to be appraised and the fascinating historical stories behind the objects. I know what I would take to the show. I have an heirloom Rio Grande wool blanket that my paternal great-grandmother wove in New Mexico.
About ten years ago I had a small hole in the blanket repaired. It cost me $300 but I did have an award winning New Mexican weaver (her works are at the Smithsonian) repair the hole. My husband painted this pastel of a weaving loom and put part of the design of our family's blanket in the picture.

I don't know what the blanket is worth monetarily, but to me it's priceless. Ever since I inherited the blanket, I have taken it to many family weddings. Usually after the marriage ceremony, the newly married couple kneels on the blanket and receives blessings from the guests, which are often the sign of the cross on their foreheads, while someone sings the Entriega de los Novios. This is a ballad for the newlyweds commemorating the day. The Spanish verses to the Entriega have been passed down for generations in New Mexico Hispanic families.

In many historical fiction books there are often objects or implied objects which play a part in the story. In the 2018 pending publication of my middle grade historical fiction book, The Wind Called My Name, one object I would associate with the story is a pine cone from a piñon tree. The main character, Margaríta, believes that the fragrance of the pine cone will help her remember her ancestral home, New Mexico, and the nuts in the pine cone could be shared with a possible new friend in Wyoming.

We recently attending our fourth grade grandson's celebration of learning at an event called "Blast from the Past." To partially meet the Colorado history standards, he wrote a research article and made a timeline of a Colorado personality. Since he studied John Denver, the (pretend artifact) he chose to display was a guitar.
Our grandson was dressed as John Denver in a western shirt and wore round glasses as he manned his display area with his information posted on his tri-board.
One student displayed traps as he portrayed a mountain man. There were four classes of fourth graders so I wasn't able to see all the displays, but I can imagine the learning that occurred as the students created/gathered and wrote about their artifacts. Students put the parts they learned together into a whole to create a new meaning or structure. A Common Core Language Arts standard states that students need to "refer to details and examples in a text when explaining what the text says explicitly and when drawing inferences from the text."
If I were in a Colorado fourth grade class today and needed to bring an item for display in a Colorado History Museum, I might bring the elbow length gloves Molly Brown put aside when she was helping people disembark from the Titanic. (You can see that I'm making a logical inference about what Molly Brown might have worn after dining aboard the Titanic.)
When I was a teacher/librarian, the teachers and I collaborated on various curriculum museums. In our storybook museum, one student displayed shaved whiskers for the "hairs on my chinny, chin chin."  In our Night of the Notables celebrations, students met many requirements and one of them was to bring a food that would reflect the person they studied. One student studied Harry Houdini and creatively constructed a black top hat out of paper and filled it with pink Peeps bunnies.
The possibilities are endless in creating curricular museums and of course they could be extended to historical fiction. What historical periods are your students studying that could  extend to a museum culminating activity? What are some real and implied objects in historical fiction books students could uncover that could tell even more of the story?
What objects would your students display with these books? They might need to stretch their minds and imply an object based on what they read in the text.
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