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November 30, 2012

Center for History Education Introduces “Children’s Lives at Colonial London Town”

Chelsea Williams
Communications Manager

Children's Lives at Colonial London Town: The Stories of Three Families is a digital storybook about real people who resided in London Town, a colonial-era trading port near Annapolis, Maryland. The project is collaboration between elementary school teachers from Anne Arundel County Public Schools, the Center for History Education at UMBC, and Historic London Town and Gardens. The U.S. Department of Education’s Teaching American History Grant Program provided funding.

The storybook was developed through graduate coursework, under the direction of Marjoleine Kars, chair and associate professor of history at UMBC, and Mary Davis, Anne Arundel County Public Schools resource teacher. The teachers worked at London Town with Lisa Robbins, director of education, to research and write the children’s stories, making use of primary sources, such as documents and artifacts, as well as secondary sources on the history of childhood.

The teachers realized that focusing on children would generate interest among their fourth and fifth grade students studying the colonial period. The resulting narratives, which together span the early 1700s to the American Revolution, provide insight into the daily lives of three different families. Read together, the stories are an inclusive portrait of life in London Town in the eighteenth-century colonial south. The book examines the themes of class and social structure, gender, education and work. As a teaching resource, it can be used across the disciplines and in a variety of subject areas.

In 1709, the children of the Holland Pierpoint family helped to operate the family business, an ordinary, a type of inn for travelers. They had to perform a number of chores and would frequently vacate their own beds to accommodate the paying guests. The Hill family had fallen on hard times in 1739, causing the father, Richard Hill, to declare bankruptcy and leave London Town for the island of Madeira, off the coast of Portugal, where he had business interests. His wife and several of his children and servants moved with him to the island, but part of the family remained at London Town, under the care of Hannah, his newly-married, fifteen-year-old daughter. Finally, a single reference in court records mentions a boy named Jacob. In 1762, Jacob was seven years old and enslaved. Jacob’s daily life is re-constructed from the research done by historians on colonial slavery in the mid-Atlantic region. He lived and worked for the Brown family of London Town. The Browns, who owned an inn, also employed convict and indentured servants.

The Children’s Lives at Colonial London Town website, designed by the UMBC New Media Studio in conjunction with the Center for History Education, includes the storybook and a number of interactive features, including maps, a timeline, and a glossary of terms. Visitors to the site will also find additional background information on the people and places in the stories and learn more about present-day London Town. “Digital media allows us to do more sophisticated things. It creates more opportunities for learning and allows us to present material that is more complicated,” said Kars.

“None of us imagined that it would be what it became,” said Robbins. “We’re all so proud of and blown away by the finished product.”

“Children’s Lives at Colonial London Town” is an instructional resource for educators, home-school families, and community organizations, with numerous teacher-created activities designed to further student understanding and develop historical thinking and literacy skills. The activities align with the Maryland content and Common Core Standards. Suggestions are given for helping students comprehend the story content and themes.

The project was the recipient of the 2012 Social Studies Program of Excellence Award from the Middle States Regional Council for the Social Studies, an affiliate of the National Council for the Social Studies.

Posted by chelseah at November 30, 2012 4:18 PM