Unsung Voices: Second Grade Monuments

By the Integrated Learning and Information Science (ILIS) Department

For the past several months, 2nd grade students have been spending their Kovler Family Library and computer time working on a United States Geography Project with Lower and Intermediate School Library and Information Services Specialist Mary Catherine Coleman and Educational Technology Integration Specialist Sarah Beebe.

The first step of the project was introducing United States geography. Beebe and Coleman started by reading the book How to Make a Pie and See the USA by Marjorie Priceman. In the story, the young girl decides to make a cherry pie, but the pie shop is closed, so she travels around the U.S. to collect all the materials she needs to make her pie. As we read the story, we marked the locations on Google Earth and took a virtual field trip around the country to better help the students understand the location of various states and natural landmarks.
During the next session, students explored the U.S. again using Google Earth and highlighting some well-known landmarks like Mount Rushmore, the Golden Gate Bridge and the Washington Monument. Then students explored the National Geographic Kids U.S. States website so they could learn a bit more about each of the states.
The following week, we read the very funny book The Scrambled States of America by Laurie Keller. We have a large foam floor puzzle of the United States and scrambled the pieces. Each student was given a state, and we set out to put the states back in their rightful places. This again reinforced the geographic locations of all the states.
Next, we introduced students to the idea of monuments, and the teachers shared some of the most famous monuments around the U.S. using Google Earth. Students talked about how a monument is a statue, building or another structure built to commemorate a famous or notable person or event. Students explored the Lincoln Memorial, Mount Rushmore and the FDR monument in Washington DC.
Then we connected with the idea of monuments again and talked to the students about why they would be built, and they mentioned the idea of building monuments to former United States Presidents. We introduced students to the possibility of building monuments to people who are not always recognized for their accomplishments and contributions to society. We told them that would be their challenge: to read a biography of an unsung hero and, in small groups, collect research on that person to learn more about their lives.
We chose narrative nonfiction books, focusing on books about people who were not as well-known as well as on people of color and women, who are among the least represented by U.S. monuments and statues. Students read these books in small groups and collected information for their reasearch, focusing on each person’s noteworthy accomplishments.
The next step was the ideate stage. We asked students to work with their groups to think about what the person was known for and then design a monument that highlighted those achievements. We wanted students to focus on building a monument that was more than a statue of the person, but truly shined a light on the person’s successes.
After students worked on their design plans, they started building. We put out lots of different soft maker materials, including cardboard, construction paper, Play-Doh, pipe cleaners as well as Little Bits connective circuits. They worked with their groups for about two and a half weeks building and creating their monuments. They engaged in this project and worked to create thoughtful and imaginative monuments to the people they learned about. Students wrote up “plaques” to add to their monuments to tell people about their unsung heroes and changemakers and also explained where in the United States they would build their monument and why.
As the project’s final step, 2nd graders displayed their monuments in the library. Students were so excited to share their work and talk about what they had done as well as learn about their classmates’ work and the people they studied and were celebrating. 

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Francis W. Parker School educates students to think and act with empathy, courage and clarity as responsible citizens and leaders in a diverse democratic society and global community.