RMCS students from Lizzie Appleby’s class

RMCS students from Lizzie Appleby’s class conduct an experiment in steam power at the Shelburne Museum.

How do you engage fourth graders in learning about Vermont history? According to Rick Marcotte Central School fourth grade teachers, Patrick Knepp, Lizzy Appleby, Megan Downing and Nicholle Eddy, and Shelburne Museum Family and Academic Programs Coordinator Mollie Davis, you make them tour guides at Shelburne Museum. This initiative, piloted this past fall, began an extensive, hands-on collaborative learning program between the school and the museum, funded with support from the PTO.

As the students study Vermont history, the partnership with Shelburne Museum has allowed the fourth graders to “get their hands dirty” and experience what it would be like to live in the 18th and 19th centuries in Vermont. The teachers and museum coordinator focused on literacy, history and science, developing lessons that would highlight the collections and support the learning happening in the classroom.

Students have learned about the jobs and roles associated with the buildings on the Shelburne Museum grounds, for example, studying what it was like to be a teacher in the 1800s. They also experimented with steam power and conducting experiments to see if they could power a small boat with only water and a candle.

“The three states of matter are solid, liquid and gas. The Ticonderoga use all these substances,” said fourth grader Jamie Mills. “The solid is coal, the liquid is water, the gas is the steam from the fire. We made models of the Ticonderoga. We filled the toy boat up with water and lit a mini candle. We put the mini candle inside the toy boat which heated up the heat plate and, after about three minutes, it started to move around the fish tank.”

In addition to their experiences on the museum’s grounds, the students will continue their research both at the school library and with sources provided by the museum to gain a deeper understanding of Vermont history.

“We hope that students will be able to make a deeper connection to their learning and to their community,” said Davis. “But, we also hope that they have fun! It is going to be extremely exciting to see them teach other students at the end of the year.”

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