Reconstruction Activity

The 8th graders are currently studying the Reconstruction of America after the Civil War.  When studying history, it is important to try to understand all the views of people involved.  I try to put my students "in the shoes" of people from history as often as possible.  Students had a chance to experience what it might have felt like to be the southerners during this time.  Without me telling them this activity related to Reconstruction, I had the students work in pairs to construct any structure they wanted to make.  Students were then told to draw an image of what they built, using just a pencil.  Next, the students were told to stand up, and switch seats with another group.  Much to their surprise, I told the students to destroy the structure in front of them built by the other group.  You can see the reaction on some of the students faces below as the watched their hard work being destroyed in seconds!  I then informed the students that they had to rebuild the structure based solely on the image provided by the group who originally built it.  While some students were able to successfully rebuild, most had a difficult time understanding where each piece went based only on the picture.

After students rebuilt the structure they had destroyed, I asked the class several questions.

How did it feel seeing what you hard worked hard to build being destroyed?
Was it hard to rebuild the structure based solely off of the image drawn?
Is the rebuilt structure really the same as it was before?

Students were very insightful, noting that based off of a black and white drawing it was very hard to reconstruct the building.  It was also impossible to see what the back of the structure may have looked like.

At the very end of class I informed students that the purpose of this activity was for them to feel what it might have been like to be a southerner during the Reconstruction period.  Many areas of the south had been damaged and needed major repairs.  Even though places were rebuilt, things were not exactly the same, and just as they felt in class, there were lingering feelings towards the reconstruction.  Students also pointed out that there was not very heavy use of photography yet in the 1800s and that some places may not have been photographed and only drawn, making reconstruction even more challenging.

Finally, students used their journals to reflect in writing on how this activity helped them understand the view point of southerners during Reconstruction.

Building structures!

 The heartbreak of seeing your hard work being destroyed!

 Working together to rebuild the structures based only on a drawing. 

Completing a reflection piece on the activity.