Entries by Judy Dodge Cummings

Dioramas in the Classroom—Fun and Effective Project Based Learning

In the digital world of the 21st century, are dioramas an effective teaching tool? Some educators want teachers to abandon sugar cubes and shoe boxes for more high tech activities, insisting dioramas do not require students to engage in complex problem solving and critical thinking. However, there is no reason to dump the diorama. With a well-structured lesson, building a diorama requires students to analyze primary sources, deeply understand content, support a thesis, and solve engineering challenges to build a structure that incorporates key elements of design. Dioramas are sophisticated stuff.

Why History Matters: A Teacher’s Rationale

When I was working on my undergraduate degree in the early 1980’s, a boyfriend questioned my choice of major. “Why does history matter anyway? What’s a history degree going to get you besides winning at Trivial Pursuit?”

Although I relished beating this guy every time we played the board game, my pursuit of the past had loftier aims. For 26 years I taught history to high school students. Now I write history books for children and teens. You see, I knew all along what my boyfriend didn’t. Understanding history isn’t trivial. It’s vital.

Doing History

Is history a noun or a verb? How a teacher answers this question can be seen in what goes on in his or her classroom.  If you want to develop the minds of youth who are capable of thinking critically about the relationship between the past and the present, then don’t teach history to students. Instead teach students to do history.