Past To The Future Overview

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Objective: Students Will Be Able To synthesize research about the American Revolution into their own lives to make a CHANGE in their world in order to affect their futures.

Big Idea

Use the PAST To CHANGE the PRESENT in order to SAVE our FUTURE

Prior Knowledge and Language Objectives

Prior Knowledge: Basic background of the American Revolution. The Major events that led up to and happened during the Revolutionary war. Basic computer skills. Being able to save files properly. Being willing to make mistakes and chances.

Language Objective: SWBAT use persuasive language in order to convince others that their ideas are worth changing the world

Technology Used

Technology Used:  Each Team has a separate project outcome which requires different technology. Technology listed here are not the end all and I encourage you to find technologies that you are comfortable using. I ALSO encourage you to find new technologies and explore them. I am always amazed at how quickly students learn new technologies and how much they teach me about the ones I do know!

Technology that I use: Word, PowerPoint, Movie Maker (a lot!), GiMP, Scratch, Skype, Class Dojo, Edmodo

Project Overview

Watch The Past To The Future Overview Video

Driving Question:  If you (we) could initiate one change in your present life that would shape or change the future what would you do and how can you use history (the past) to justify/support your idea/cause(s)?

Theme: All history is about change. We need to connect our lives to historical events in order to engage our students into understanding history, AND creating a "want to know more" environment. (*Challenge: to engage students into history by using the research to connect to the (their) real world.)

Final Project/Outcome: Each team will choose their mode of final presentation during the Spring Showcase. The Spring Showcase is an event where are students get an opportunity to showcase their work. Families, Community members, and supporting corporations’ members are all invited to share in this celebration of work. I typically like to hold these events during the school day so that all students get to participate but we have also had success hold these events on weekends. Our evening events are not usually well attended.

Rubric: Each team is provided a separate rubric based on their final project. Each team member is provided with an individual rubric so that they know that they are scored as a team as well as how they supported each other in the team. 

General Lesson

90 minutes


The general idea of this project is to have students take what they have learned about the American Revolutionary war and apply it to their own lives. Why did the American fight for change, why did they strive for a better life, what changes did they make in their world. The Students will break into groups based on three principles:

1. The Actionists: Those who like to make change happen through action

2. The Explorationists: Those who like to find change through exploring (experiments/science)

3. The Innovationist: Those who like to make change by finding new ways to doing things and making life easier.

The Buy-In: I started the groups before they knew there was a project and then gamified my classroom. I teach three different classes and there are three of each of the above groups in each class. Collectively they are called The Futurist. Please see the lesson on the Futurist on getting started on Gamifiing your classroom!

Through a series of videos the class will find out that 100 years in the future their neighborhood, school and community are gone. Scientist in the future have sent message back into time to warm them that the end has come and it is their challenge to learn from the past to make changes to their present in order to save the future.

Launch: a computer generated scientist contacts the school to let them know that in the year 2213 the school and their entire community is gone. Scientists designed this program that in the event our community came to an end the computer would contact the past to warn them. The warning being that if they didn’t work together to make changes in their community/world the end would come. But if we look at what has been done through the history of time, we have the power to change the course of the future. Video will come in three parts to capture the imagination of the students?

Video #1: starts as a ‘Mount View’ video that gets interrupted by a broadcast from the future to warn the students that the end has come.

Video #2: video explains why our community ended (using information based on why great societies fail) this will give them ideas of directions they can take to make change.

Video #3: video gives the challenge to make a change in the school/community/world

Launch Group Project: As a group, launch a classroom lesson where students look at the Boston Tea party and why the colonist were dumping tea. Add to that project and have the class design a project centered on food and taxes. This would spring board the team/group research project and scaffold.

Future: Predicting what might happen in the future if we don’t make changes today, application.

Present: Understanding what are major areas are that we need to change in our community and country, understanding.

Past: Understanding why people fought for change and made history doing so, research!

Cross Curriculum Connections

Reading – Writing – Social Studies – Science – Math - Technology

Real World Connections: Change in their school and community, solving problems that they see as important. While grade levels will dictate theme students will direct focus. Connecting what has gone on before them, students will make research relevant to their own lives. Students are driven by the idea that they can ‘change the world’ Students are directly applying their learned knowledge to their own lives. Using real world connections really help students put together what they have learned and give it rally purpose/meaning. Students will also be connecting with people in their own community to open up the classroom into the real world, not just relying on their teacher to lead.

Research / Reading Connection:

David Macaulay, Motel of Mystery

William E. Burns, Science and Technology in Colonial America

Rosalyn Schanzer, George vs. George, The American Revolution as seen from Both Sides.

Joseph Plumb Martin, Memoir of a Revolutionary Solder: The Narrative of Joseph Plumb Martin

Sheila Solomon Klass, Soldier’s Secret: The Story of Deborah Sampson

Laurie Halse Anderson, Chains (Seeds of America)

Writing connection:

  • Major product: Students will write 2 or more reflective letters from your ‘past’ self to your ‘future’ self, based on information collected to explain what they are learning about why people chose to change things (CCSS W.5.3a).

This project is connected to (these other projects insert links).

Skills Development

Collaboration - Individual Responsibilities: Students will work in teams to collect research to support their final product. Information and ideas will be shared in the form  of a Socratic Seminar model.  Rubric to be created to assign team roles and responsibilities. CCSS SL.5.1a-b

Collaboration –Team Responsibilities: Students will work in teams to collect research to support their final product. Information and ideas will be shared in the form  of a Socratic Seminar model.  Rubric to be created to assign team roles and responsibilities. CCSS SL.5.1a-b

Team project will be dependent of team work in order to finish.

Teams will also process through revision work where teams give supportive and critical revisions suggestions. Teams will work together so that every project is the result of team work.

Critical Thinking Skills: Students will be able to take their learned knowledge of the changes made during the Revolutionary War and apply it to their own lives, seeing that their own voice is just as powerful as the voice of the young Americans.

Problem Solving Skills: Students will be able to work together as a team to come to common solutions. Teams will assign responsibilities to each team member in order to be successful.


STEM Connections:


Science and Technology in Colonial America: What did science look like and how did it shape the colonies?


Mainly research (internet), Movie Maker, Web Cams, PowerPoint or Prezi, GiMP, Scratch, Edmodo.


Grade level social studies/history. Grade level science materials. Historical fiction book to group study.

Science: Science in Colonial America


The final product, building digital presentations.


The final product, use of art and creativity to present their message/cause/campaign.


Math centered activities that use colonial life to connect learning in math: currency, data/charts, fractions.

21st Century Learning Skills

Learning and Innovation Skills:

• Creativity and Innovation

• Critical Thinking and Problem Solving

• Communication and Collaboration

Information, Media and Technology Skills:

• ICT (Information, Communications and Technology) Literacy

Life and Career Skills:

• Flexibility and Adaptability

• Initiative and Self-Direction

• Productivity and Accountability

• Leadership and Responsibility

ELL and Special Education Support

Project Based Learning is very supportive of ELL and SpEd students. Allowing them to create final project based on their abilities is very rewarding, especially when working in a team.

ELL Support: finding videos, research material and support material is a home language can be really helpful. Diagrams and art is also very helpful. Finding events that relate their home countries can also be very supportive. I also find paring ELL students with classmates that speak the same language can also be supportive. Allow students to do presentation work that is more graphic oriented instead of text based can be helpful, especially when they have great ideas but lack the ability to put all their ideas into English. You can also partner-pair for final presentations

SpEd – find the research materials for these students to use. Having them find their own research can be very overwhelming and may force them to give up before getting started. Partner support can be a great tool. Simplify their final project but keep the same high expectations. Maybe it is a PowerPoint that only has 5 slides instead of 10 but still gets their point across. Quality not Quantity!

Educator as Change Agent / How to bring in other Educators and Community Members into the project


It is really important that you work to bring in outside community members into students' projects. I find social media is a great way to find ‘specialist’ to help support the work. I really like using Edmodo (like Facebook but for school use) to have student’s blog with experts, this way the experts do not have to leave their homes! It is really amazing how much more engage students become when they find out that someone outside of the school is interested in their work! Also, bring in other teachers into the project work, it is a lot easier to manage when there are a lot more minds involved. In each of the lessons connected to this project I have suggestions on how to involve other teachers and community members, as well as corporate involvement!


Suggestions for Assessments

Formative Assessments

(During Project)

Journal/Learning Log

Preliminary Plans/Outlines/Prototypes

Rough Drafts




Concept Maps













Summative Assessments

(End of Project)

Written Product(s), with rubrics

Oral Presentation, with rubric

Multiple Choice/Short Answer Test

Essay Test

Other Product(s) or Performance(s), with


Peer Evaluation