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Learning history the experiential way at TN Tatem

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The birth of Bermuda: TN Tatem students, shown in their 17th-century costumes, discuss Admiral Sir George Somers and the Sea Venture

Research informs us that there are many different ways of learning valuable material.

Using textbooks and question-and-answer periods at the end of each chapter is much used internationally in all subjects.

An alternative method, however, which can be an excellent way of retaining difficult information, is experiential learning, in which students are “immersed” in a topic, and all its practical aspects for a period of time during the course of a school term.

A group of students at TN Tatem have just completed a six-week study, Bermuda Then and Now, a close look at how Bermudians lived over 400 years ago.

The study examined what type of food they ate, how they dressed, the customs they observed, including the social structure of family units.

“I was Sir George Somers,” said N’Jai Evans. “I helped narrate the story of the Sea Venture when our parents came to school for the presentation of our project.”

Teacher in charge of the project, Leslie Evans, said: “Learning this way is extremely valuable.”

By having the children “act out” scenarios, they can understand 17th-century business transactions and get a meaningful understanding of the time.

Ms Evans explained: “This was a complete integrated learning experience. We set up our classroom with word walls, flash cards and a complete section devoted to the different foods which were available 400 years ago.”

Her students learnt many valuable lessons.

“I helped set up a trading post,” said Tie’Asia Allen. “In the 17th century, candles were traded for salt and I learnt about business deals by setting up the trading post.”

Another student, Deshae Williams, said: “I was the Town Crier in St George. I helped create a ‘word wall’ in our class with all the important words the Town Crier would use!”

“There was no junk food in those days,” said Trudell Edward. “There were lots of proteins along with vegetables and fruits and fish.”

“Sometimes people got dunked in the Ducking Stool in St George” said Amira Turini. “Especially if they talked too much or gossiped about each other!”

Ms Evans concluded: “This was a huge project for the children. They thoroughly enjoyed wearing 17th-century costumes and sitting down for dinner at a table especially set up in the style of 400 years ago, with a Bible at one end of the table.”

The children all agreed.

“We found out all about the Sea Venture and how Bermuda was discovered,” said Urijah Williams and Alshantae Symons. “And we were dressed exactly the same way as they were all those years ago.”

The group’s consensus: “We like learning this way!”

Where the past meets the present: the class visited Fort Scaur in Somerset Island, Sandys, as part of their project