By Susan Riddell
When Laureen Laumeyer introduced her students to MISSION US online learning game, she thought it was a fail-safe way to teach them about the Revolutionary War era. There was just one catch.
“When my students learned they could log on at home, they did, and they played,” said Laumeyer, a 5th-grade teacher at Meadow View Elementary School (Hardin County). “They played ahead of where we were in the classroom. At first I thought it was a problem, but how can excitement about learning be a problem?”
To fix this issue, she made students replay their parts in class, and getting students to comply was easy because they were having fun while learning. Laumeyer, a teacher for more than 13 years, was recently named National MISSION US Educator of the Year.
“I’ve been honored to represent MISSION US as its Teacher of the Year,” Laumeyer said. “However, the real winners are my students. My students have experienced history, they have personalized it, and it has become a part of them.”
MISSION US is a series of free, interactive online games plus materials for teaching American history. “For Crown or Colony?” is the first game in the series. It is set in the Revolutionary War period. The year is 1770 – prior to the Boston massacre – and players take on the role of Nat Wheeler, an apprentice to a printer.
Laumeyer played the game after getting information about it at the Kentucky Council for the Social Studies convention last year. “I had to make decisions about where and from whom to buy items,” she said of the game. “I was faced with life situations that allowed me to see different perspectives.”
As her students played the game, they quickly picked up on those different perspectives. Laumeyer knew she had discovered a powerful learning tool after one student called her at home on a snow day after playing the game.
“As I listened to her frustration (trying to find indigo), I realized that I could never generate enough interest in the Revolutionary Era to get a 10-year-old talking like that,” she said. “She knew as an apprentice it was her job to get the indigo, and she knew the difference between Patriot and Loyalist. These vocabulary words were part of her personal vocabulary. They were more than terms and definitions on paper. Rest assured, she found her indigo. However, at the end of the game she chose to go to sea. She couldn’t decide if she wanted to be a Patriot or a Loyalist, but she had developed the ability to see different perspectives.”
Laumeyer expanded on the MISSION US lessons by incorporating them into writing prompts, homework and other group and individual activities.
“The writing prompts placed them as a shoe store owner who imports sneakers from Asia,” Laumeyer explained. “A group of people boycott their store and embarrass them on TV. The students had to justify if this was fair or not. This approach allowed my students to connect current events to historical events (Patriots vs. Loyalists). History was becoming very real to them as they were able to relate to it personally.”
Laumeyer said her favorite lesson was called “From Bad to Worse – March 5, 1770.” She had students compare their respective locations on King Street when the Boston Massacre began in the “For Crown or Colony?” game. Because students can make so many different choices up to the Boston Massacre part of the game, they can be in any number of locations when it gets to that point.
“As the students watched the Boston Massacre, they filled out a post-game discussion packet as eyewitnesses. They also drew what they ‘saw,’” Laumeyer said. “It led to a wonderful conversation on perspective.
“Even though I had previously taught cause and effects that led to the revolution, the chronology/timeline activities helped my students gain a sense of time and enforce the idea that there is a consequence for every action,” Laumeyer added. “Now that they were experiencing the time era from the perspective of Nat, it became more meaningful to them.”
“I’ve been honored to represent MISSION US as its Teacher of the Year. However, the real winners are my students. My students have experienced history, they have personalized it, and it has become a part of them.” – Laureen Laumeyer, National MISSION US Educator of the Year
While Laumeyer was named national MISSION US Teacher of the Year, she shared the state honor with Butler County Middle School teachers Latisha Cardwell and Amy Smith-Thomas. Cardwell is the library media specialist, while Smith-Thomas teaches 8th-grade American history, language arts and study skills.
The two collaborated on incorporating MISSION US into classroom activities that culminated with a living timeline that transformed into something more.
“What started out as something like a living time line became a lantern-lit walk through of Colonial Boston, where other classes came in to visit and learn about the events leading up to the American Revolution,” Cardwell said. “We also used images and video clips from KET’s EncycloMedia as props and stops along the walk. Our Colonial-dressed narrator led visiting students to areas to learn about the Daughters of Liberty, Phillis Wheatley, the Boston Tea Party, the death of Christopher Seider, the Boston Massacre, the Tree of Liberty, John Hancock (played by Principal Jeff Jennings), George Washington crossing the Delaware and many more.”
“The authenticity of the walk-through engaged our students at peak levels,” Cardwell added. “So many were working on different jobs that Amy and I were a bit apprehensive about being able to monitor and instruct when needed and keeping everyone on task, but the students were wonderful and sincere about wanting their areas to look and sound authentic as possible.”
Smith-Thomas agreed about the authenticity of the entire MISSION US effort.
“(Students) were able to put themselves in the shoes of those people during that time period,” she said. “Students remember things when they are able to move around, create, perform and teach others. They enjoyed it tremendously. They want to do something like it again this school year. Many went home and told their parents about MISSION US and also played the game with family. It offers great parent, student and teacher involvement.”
Laureen Laumeyer, firstname.lastname@example.org, (270) 352-0500
Latisha Cardwell, email@example.com, (270) 526-5647
Amy Smith-Thomas, firstname.lastname@example.org, (270) 526-5647