Remembering the Lessons of History in Grade 7

in Spring 2024 by

As we near the end of another academic year at Park, we’re excited to share about a new Grade 7 initiative: the Memorial Project. Driven by a desire to instill a deeper connection to American history beyond the textbook, Dave Perry envisioned a project that would encourage reflection, empathy, and a sense of civic duty. Thus, the Memorial Project was born—a platform for students to commemorate and honor pivotal moments, individuals, and ideas from our nation’s past. 

Dave drew inspiration from the recent Grade 7 trip to Washington D.C., where students immersed themselves in American history through visits to the 3Ms—monuments, memorials, and museums. From the halls of the Smithsonian to the grounds of the Pentagon, the experiences from the trip served as catalysts for thought and inspiration for these memorial projects.

From the exploits of Lewis and Clark to the tales of the Trail of Tears, from the defiant act of the Boston Tea Party to the courageous efforts of the Underground Railroad, each student selected a subject close to their hearts—a story they felt compelled to honor and remember.

While initially, the notion was to tether choices to the time period studies in the classroom (roughly 1750 to the end of Reconstruction in 1877), students brought forth stories of resilience, activism, and struggle, that mirrored the spirit of our curriculum. Students, eager to bridge the gap between past and present, drew inspiration from contemporary events and movements that resonate deeply with our society today. From events like the Sandy Hook Massacre to the Black Lives Matter Movement, they demonstrated a keen awareness of the interconnectedness of history and the pressing issues of our time.

Dave loves watching his students get excited about a project, “They dove right into it with enthusiasm, passion, and creativity and that shows in their work. If students are passionate about what they are commemorating, they feel more invested in the outcome. Letting students have the opportunity to choose for themselves was very important for me.”

The Memorial Project served as a platform for innovation and creativity, with students incorporating elements from the Makerspace and leveraging technology to breathe new life into their commemorations. Whether crafting physical memorials or exploring virtual realms, they found innovative ways to pay homage to the past while embracing the possibilities of the future.

Below is a sampling of student projects from this spring.

Writing the Constitution by Emily F.

“This scene with North American animals memorializes the people left out of the Writing of the Constitution. The wolves inside the bubble stand for the white men who wrote the Constitution, while the animals outside of the bubble symbolize the people who did not have voices in the Constitution.”

Corps of Discovery Memorial Park by Lucy J.

“Lewis and Clark and the Corps of Discovery explored the Louisiana Purchase and tried to find the Northwest Passage. With no maps and no communication with civilization, they crossed 4,162 miles to the Pacific. A statue can’t capture the scope of this journey – the distance, the river currents, the mountains. This memorial park walks visitors in the Corps’ footsteps, facing these obstacles as the explorers had. The members of the Corps of Discovery were the first Americans to see the Great Plains, the first to cross the Continental Divide, and the first to reach the Pacific by land. Along their journey, they made maps and made friends with many of the local people. These would help to open the West to future explorers and settlers. This journey wasn’t just about the people who took it. This park celebrates the land of possibility that the Corps of Discovery opened to the rest of the country.”

Black Lives Matter Sculpture by Sydney C.

“‘I can’t breathe’ were the three words that have been said during this movement. I wanted to memorialize people who were killed by police brutality because their lives were taken too soon, and their lives deserve to be remembered. I connect to this because this is one of my fears, this is one of my fears because the people who are put in the system to protect me could hurt me just because of the color of my skin. On my memorial, I put people who were killed by police violence throughout the last couple of years.”

Henry “Box” Brown by Nico G.

“There are a lot of great messages that I could choose, but the message that I choose is that it takes a lot of bravery, sacrifice, and commitment to do something that you want to strive to achieve. My goal is to make sure that the people who look at my memorial reflect on their own lives and see all the hard work they do to be themselves. Also, I want to show that a lot of enslaved people had to go through a lot of the same process of trying to free themselves from being enslaved.”