Folsom students shine in unique local history project

Textbooks not an option in project that focuses on Folsom’s history
By: Rachel Zirin, Senior Reporter
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Folsom’s Theodore Judah Elementary School third graders were recently required to participate in a social studies project where the textbook was not an option.

Teacher Jennifer Foster created this project last year with one simple driving question – What are the historical places that make Folsom a unique community?

“Instead of learning from a textbook and sitting in a classroom, I created a PBL (project-based learning) where the students have to become the expert,” she said. “On a specific topic they do research, go on tours, go out and learn everything they can.”

The students split up in groups of three to four to start working on their project.

The whole third grade went on field trips around Folsom with their groups to historical destinations such as the Folsom Dam, the Folsom Prison, Sutter Street, the Folsom Hotel, the Murer House and more. One group even became experts on the Folsom Telegraph.

Once the students compiled all of their findings, they worked on the assignment and then presented their report to their peers, parents and the community on March 16.

“This project is important on two different components,” Foster said. “The first is communication and collaboration. The kids had to work together to complete their projects. The second is it involved a lot of creativity on their part.”

Foster also said this project was important because it gets the students out of the classroom and having active participation.

“This year, I focused more on the process of the PBL from start to finish, so it was more about the inquiry, the discovery and also the revision,” Foster said. “All of these kids come in thinking they need to be perfect from start to finish. We had a ‘critical friends protocol’ where we were able to critique and give suggestions on what could be improved. That was hard for some of them because they want to be perfect the first time.

In the end, they found that the finished product was a better product because they had that opportunity for revision and review.”

Foster said the students told her this project was their favorite so far. She said it was a home run.

“I personally am passionate about Folsom history, and I learn something new every year,” she said. “We have a teacher at our school named Mackenzie Pesce-Chan, and she is married to one of Oak Chan’s descendents. The kids had this meaningful connection to do the Chan House. It was really sweet.”