- Classroom Spotlight
An American Dessert Party
Students explore and celebrate the complexity of American identity through historical role-play and reflection in Ms. Mindy Kim's Perspectives in United States History class.
What does it mean to be an American? This is the question that Marlborough History Instructor Mindy Kim presented to her students in their Perspectives in United States History class through an unconventional, yet deeply engaging project. Ms. Kim's innovative approach, which encompasses multifaceted strategies such as dynamic discussions, creative projects, and immersive experiences, pushes the boundaries of conventional notions surrounding American identity.
Taking inspiration from Marlborough History Instructor Taryn Marshall, who does a similar project with her American Studies students during their exploration of the Civil Rights Movement, Ms. Kim expanded upon this immersive approach as the inaugural project for her class. At the beginning of the school year, students engaged in macro-level discussions, analyzing news, TV shows, and media clips that touched upon American propaganda and criticisms. These discussions served as an introduction into the complexities of American identity, fostering an environment where students were encouraged to challenge the narratives they encountered in the media.
The culmination of this exploration is a dessert party, where students assumed the roles of historical figures through engaging role-play. Each student came prepared with organized and detailed information about their chosen figure, offering a deeper understanding of the character they were representing. The option to dress as their selected figure added an extra layer of immersion to the experience.
Upon their arrival at the 'party,' students were seated at different tables, mirroring the diversity present in American society. This format prompts students to introduce themselves and share insights about the historical figures they have adopted, in a manner reminiscent of a formal dinner party. This arrangement often leads to surprising connections and revelations, highlighting the richness of American diversity.
The beauty of this project lies in its celebration of diversity. Students are encouraged to select figures based on their cultural identity, personal experiences, or any other source of inspiration. The wide array of chosen figures, which includes Maya Angelou, Alice Coachman, Tupac, Kurt Cobain, Kim Kardashian, and Billie Jean King, showcases the multifaceted nature of American identity. As students converse with peers at their initial tables and then mingle with others, they gain a deeper appreciation for the diversity that exists within American life. The project encourages students to see beyond their initial perceptions and embrace the complex reality of what it means to be an American.
Following the party, the students gathered as a class to reflect on their experiences and share their thoughts. They also completed an exit ticket reflection, allowing them to consolidate their newfound insights into American identity. As Ms. Kim shares, "This class departs from focusing on a single narrative, offering a delightful way for my students to explore the complexities of American identity."
In a world where American identity is constantly evolving, this unique classroom project serves as a refreshing and enjoyable way for students to grapple with the complexities of being an American. It challenges them to think about whether there are common traits, expectations, and ideals that can unite a diverse nation, all while celebrating the rich diversity of the American experience.