The Declaration of Independence: A Great Start for Curriculum and Country!
Educators of gifted students are always looking for good ways to engage their students in complex, interdisciplinary content that is authentic, relevant, and interesting to them. In light of the upcoming holiday celebrating American independence, the news story about the smudge on the Declaration of Independence would be a great jumping off point for many different lines of curriculum content as well as interest areas. Students could begin by being given this scenario:
Since it was signed in 1776, the Declaration of Independence suffered careless treatment as it was taken around the country, being rolled and unrolled often, exposed to light and smoke, and transported in unsafe packaging. At some point, someone left a visible handprint on the bottom left-hand corner of the declaration. Who made that mark remains a mystery. Use your research skills and problem solving ability to make an argument for how you think it got there.
Such a problem setting should appeal to students on many levels. Those who are interested in history would want to know more about the events of the period leading up to and beyond the signing. Where and why did the document travel around? Future writers and legislators should be interested in the linguistics and content of this unusual document. Some students might be interested in scientific aspects of the problem. What kind of elements, conditions, and weather would have affected the care and preservation of documents of the time? What kinds of ink and paper were used?
Future detectives and CSIs might be interested in clues, fingerprinting methods, and witnesses or informants that might lead them to a conclusion. Those with an interest in entertainment might want to compare factual history with the National Treasure movie or create a new script with their opinions as to how the handprint got there.
There are many directions such a problem could take. The teacher would be able to introduce content from core curriculum in history, civics, literacy, science, etc., depending on the age and grade level, while students would be able to learn more about topics that really interested them. Additionally, groups would form naturally where students share interests or tasks. Everyone is happy! There is always good content in the news to get you started on engaging curriculum for gifted students as they have the ability to engage in multiple concepts at once, have good problem solving skills, and are curious about so many topics.
If you have created a problem scenario for gifted students that has worked well for a particular content area, we invite you to share it here.
All the best,