My most memorable project in high school was one in which I researched my own house. I remember how thrilling it was to find my house on old maps at the Historical Society, to see my street address in City Directories, to trace the deeds of my house at City Hall, and to find census data at the Free Library. By finding out about my house, I also learned about the history of my neighborhood and of the city of Philadelphia. Indeed, when I think about why I decided to major in history at college and to become a teacher of history, I know that completing that project was a pivotal event.
As a 21st -century teacher of social studies, I wanted to give my students the opportunity to experience a similar hands-on and highly relevant research process. I also recognized, however, that today’s students have a range of presentation tools available which were unimaginable when I was in high school. I share with my students my prized project, painstakingly put together with construction paper, handwritten pages, and even crayon. They (and I) find it hard to believe that in 1981, this constituted an “A” project: