Hamburg Area High School Advanced Placement students participated in a Meet the Press 1860 activity on Dec. 18. During a "live studio broadcast" each student role-played a famous individual from 1860 and fielded questions from newspaper reporters and guests.
“I developed the activity because I was looking for a way to cover the build-up to the Civil War in a way that would be creative and different,” said David Kline, Advanced Placement United States History teacher at Hamburg High. “I love the role-plays because it forces a student to really dive deep into a character and understand the historical context and motives for each of the famous people.”
The classes involved were Kline’s Advanced Placement United States History 1st Period with 11 students and his Advanced Placement United States History 3rd Period with 20 students. This includes 30 juniors and one senior between the two classes.
“I am hoping the students had fun while learning about the historical events and figures that ultimately led up to the American Civil War. The election of 1860 was chosen because the election of Lincoln in that year caused 11 southern states to ultimately secede from the Union over the issue of the spread of slavery,” said Kline.
A panel of Presidential candidates for the 1860 election, as well as other historical people significant for that time period, answered questions and spoke about their view points on issues of 1860. The discussion focused on the abolitionist movement, role of women in society, the Compromise of 1850, the Kansas-Nebraska Act, the Transcontinental Railroad, Bleeding Kansas, the Dred Scott Supreme Court decision, and the John Brown's Raid at Harper's Ferry.
Hamburg junior Lexi Gerner portrayed Presidential candidate Abraham Lincoln. While the research was difficult, actually getting to portray her historical figure was fun.
“Everyone actually acted like they were those characters and I actually felt like I was in the time period. I learned a lot, like a ton about Abraham Lincoln.”
Hamburg sophomore Auradeva Nyer portrayed Harriet Tubman.
“For me, it’s really nice to interact with other students, especially with knowing everybody has to learn their own information and everybody’s able to bring it to the table and really just interact and (participate) in an actual debate. It’s really neat to see,” said Nyer.
Hamburg senior Cameron Madara portrayed a newspaper reporter for the New Orleans Daily Crescent. Participating in the 1860 Meet the Press activity showed Madara that he loves to debate.
“(Mr. Kline) has really pushed us,” said Madara. “He’s really pushed us to show diversity of thought so we have different exchanges of ideas.”
Hamburg Area School District Chief Learning Officer Teresa Freiwald watched the 1860 Meet the Press among an audience of teachers, administration and students.
“What a way to experience history from different angles,” said Freiwald.
Hamburg High School Principal Christopher Spohn said this activity is an outstanding example of how to encourage student learning outside of the classroom.
“We could be sitting in rows and Mr. Kline could be lecturing and kids could be dutifully taking notes, but instead they all researched their different (historical figures). They all participated in this debate,” said Spohn. “I think it’s a really interesting way of kids going beyond just do I know how to regurgitate this information back to you.”
He added, “This really gets kids engaged. It’s a really unique opportunity that we want to become the norm.”