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Young minds learn that history can be engaging

As an avid Jeopardy! watcher, I know the show frequently uses "U.S. Presidents" as a category.

One contestant usually breezes through this category, dazzling viewers like me with his or her wealth of presidential knowledge.

Though I always enjoyed learning about historical facts and figures, I don't consider myself well versed in presidential history. In fact, I can't even remember when I started learning about the presidents in school. Surely it wasn't way back in elementary school.

So when my second-grader at Mary Bryant Elementary came home with a Presidents Day project that involved researching a president of his choice, I was really excited. I thought it was a great opportunity for him to foster an interest in history at a young age.

Many people I know grew up thinking that history was boring, and I don't want my son to feel that way.

Ryan's first task was to pick a president. Next, he had to research specific information about the president using online sources and books. All of the details, along with a picture, needed to be put on a cereal box, and each student would do a five-minute presentation to the class.

As we began the project, I asked Ryan what president he wanted to choose. Surprisingly, he could name only three presidents, so I was beginning to see the point of the assignment.

I suggested Theodore Roosevelt, a president I have found to be particularly interesting. Years ago, I watched a fascinating Roosevelt biography on the History Channel, and it prompted me to read several biographies on our 26th president.

I grabbed my books and flipped to the old black and white photos inside. Besides the formal presidential photos, there were pictures showing Roosevelt on safari in Africa, exploring the West by horseback, and wearing his Rough Rider uniform.

Even though his project wasn't due for two weeks, Ryan was eager to start. He wasn't the only one who was excited.

His teacher told me that the students were so enthusiastic about their presidential reports that some completed the assignment early. She envisioned this project as a fun way for her students to learn about a variety of presidents. Instead of her lecturing about each president, the students had an opportunity to listen and learn from their peers.

I'm happy Ryan and his classmates have the opportunity to learn about several presidents. At a young age, they're discovering that history can be engaging and interesting.

And if the answer "This president stayed in Tampa en route to Cuba, where he fought in the Spanish-American War" ever comes up on Jeopardy!, I'm confident these kids will shout, "Who is Theodore Roosevelt?"

Danielle Hauser is a mother of two who lives in the Westchase area.

Young minds learn that history can be engaging 02/12/14 [Last modified: Wednesday, February 12, 2014 11:55am]
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