Thursday, February 13, 2014

PT High School Students Use 21st Century Tools to Understand 19th Century Life

Article by Reese Gordon
photo by Kevin Green LNJ
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Pine Tree High School students enrolled in Kilgore College’s dual credit U.S. history class now understand the poor conditions low-income families lived in during 1879.

Twenty-four students were broken down into two classes and six teams on Wednesday and re-created floor plans of low-income housing based on an 1879 contest done by the New York Housing Authority.

“It showed me that life was really hard for people,” junior Kayla Knight said. “There weren’t huge skyscrapers, and people were crowded together in bad conditions.”

Kilgore adjunct professor and Pine Tree instructor Candee Collins said her students used iPads to create the blueprints as part of the school’s “One-to-one iPad Initiative.”

Pine Tree juniors received iPad minis last week and are piloting the program, she said.

Team-based learning combined with project-based learning is something Collins said she believes in strongly.

“You can see it at the University of Texas, Texas A&M and other universities across the country,” she said. “And even in industry. They are using it in New York City public schools down to the eighth-grade level.”

Kayla said her group built its virtual blueprint using Minecraft, an interactive game the group downloaded.

Group member Bryan Vallery said research showed that low-income housing in 1879 would have involved families of seven living in rooms, 100 feet long and 25 feet wide.

Kayla said the project opened her eyes to how difficult living conditions were for immigrants looking to escape Ireland and its potato famine.

Between 1845 and 1855, more than 1.5 million people migrated to America from Ireland.

“When we were building it, we thought it looked kind of big, but then we realized the scale of it,” she said.

Junior Holly Patterson said her group downloaded the Magic Plan app for its floor plan.

The teams could use any application to construct the blueprints.

Holly described the housing as a “slum” because so many people were living together and sanitation was rudimentary.

“You would have had 21 people all sharing the same shower and one toilet,” she said. “Sometimes you didn’t even have your family living with you.”

The students in Collins’ sixth-period class said they learned that many of the immigrants living in the slums were expecting to find a better quality of life in New York and Chicago, but were disappointed to find that life in America wasn’t the dream they thought it would be.

“Many of the men worked in factories,” junior Hayley Hodge said. “They would come home and go right to sleep and often slept with multiple people in the same bed. Our housing plan was 350 square feet, and that was with seven or eight other people. Even the smallest homes today are much bigger than that, and most homes don’t include seven people.”

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