At Milton Gottesman Jewish Day School of the Nation’s Capital (MILTON) in Washington, D.C., fifth grade students recently participated in experiential lessons on U.S. and Middle Eastern history.
Students Reenact the Second Continental Congress
Fifth graders at MILTON have been contemplating the history behind the deleted passage of the Declaration of Independence. This week, students took on the roles of delegates at the Second Continental Congress and reenacted its most important session. Taking on the personas of the delegates who gathered in Philadelphia in the summer of 1776, students engaged in an impassioned debate about the issue of slavery in this country. Then they deliberated whether or not they would sign a declaration of independence with a passage demanding the end of slavery.
To prepare for their roles, students conducted research on the historical figures they were assigned to represent and used this information to mount arguments in keeping with their knowledge about their colonies, the interests they represented, and their assigned delegates. The students engaged in spirited discussions as they simultaneously presented and challenged the historical narratives. This was especially apparent when they explored the reasons representatives to the Second Continental Congress did not include language opposing slavery in their statement of ideals, which would have extended the truth “that all men are created equal” to slaves. Ultimately, each of the three classroom Congresses voted to end slavery with the Declaration of Independence.
Students Welcome Ambassador Kurtzer
To enhance students’ learning of Middle East history, fifth graders met with author, ambassador, and MILTON grandparent Daniel Kurtzer. Ambassador Kurtzer spoke first in Hebrew, and then in English, about his 30-year career as a diplomat, including his experiences while serving as the United States Ambassador to Israel and the United States Ambassador to Egypt. Students were thoroughly absorbed and asked many questions. This discussion was held in connection with MILTON’s Hebrew program and the curriculum surrounding the life and legacy of the late Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin.
By Ronit Greenstein
Ronit Greenstein is MILTON’s director of communication.