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This is part of a series of blogs from Noble campus representatives to give a deeper look at campus life. 

With school buildings closed this semester, Christine Saltsider doubled down on engaging instruction, with an up-close look at history – taking her entire class along for the ride.

Christine Saltsider is a 9th and 10th grade learning specialist specializing in history. She is in her 6th year at Hansberry College Prep and despite her years of experience, she too is facing many challenges with remote learning. 

“Remote learning has been very hectic and stressful for me. I had my first baby in January and returned from maternity leave right after schools shut down in March…As a teacher I especially miss being able to joke with my students and colleagues in person. One of my favorite things about teaching is being able to see the effects my instruction has on my students and not being able to see that firsthand has been really difficult,” says Mrs. Saltsider.

The difficulties of remote learning have forced Mrs. Saltsider to think of creative ways to engage her students. So she came up with a unique way to remix her remote instruction to have her students experience history, not just read about it in books. 

“I first thought of sharing my experiences on the East Coast with my students soon after hearing we would be remote for semester 1 [back in July]. I think I actually turned to my husband and said, ‘wouldn’t it be cool if I could do my live classes from historical sites?’”

Flash forward to October and Mrs. Saltsider began to involve her classes in the planning for her trip.

“Once I decided on a shortlist of places that to visit, I had my students take a survey to identify which places they would be interested in seeing and learning more about. After I knew their preferences, I put together a series of mini-lectures about each place for the students to watch on our “async” days and asked them to type any questions they had”, Saltisider explained.

Mrs. Saltsider took her virtual classroom to the East coast during the second full week of October. While there, she was able to teach her classes from Gettysburg Battlefield, Antietam Battlefield, Independence Hall, Elfreth’s Alley, Valley Forge, Washington Monument, Lincoln Memorial, World War II Memorial, National Museum of American History, and the National Museum of African American History and Culture. 

“Some of the highlights of our trip was being able to take a class picture in front of Independence Hall…and visiting the National Museum of African American History and Culture. The [latter] is especially hard to get tickets for and they get reserved 30 days ahead of time, so we were very fortunate that a small block of tickets opened up while we were in Washington D.C.”

Mrs. Saltsider representing Chicago at the Washington Monument in D.C.

Mrs. Saltsider pauses for a class picture with students at Independence Hall in Philadelphia.

Mrs. Saltsider in front of the National Museum of African American History and Culture. She made sure to wear a mask and follow all COVID-19 precautions during her travels.

Scholars tour the National Museum of African American Culture and History via remote learning.

MThe high point for Mrs. Saltsider’s students also seemed to be the National Museum of African American History and Culture. The visit occurred during here A4/B4 class period. On that day twenty-seven students were present in class.

Eighteen of those students stuck around after class to see more of the museum and ask questions. “ I don’t really have any pictures from inside the museum as it did not seem appropriate to take happy pictures in a space, like the museum, that is meant to provoke reflection. Thus, the pictures I have from the museum are of things that I would use in my class lectures,” said Mrs. Saltsider.

When asked about student participation, Mrs. Saltsider expressed, “typically my students choose to keep their cameras off during class, but when I asked them to turn on their cameras (if they were comfortable) for a class picture the majority of them did. It was really great to see all o their smiling faces and to see how engaged they were with the lesson. Plus, we now have a really great picture to commemorate the trip.” 

“I’m a really big advocate for making history a more hands-on experience for our students. History is normally such an abstract subject to teach and sometimes it can be really difficult for our students to feel connected to the time periods we talk about in class. Giving them the opportunity to work with historical objects and to see historic places first-hand makes history feel more real and relevant to them.”

Mrs. Saltisder also is the head of the “Hands-on History” club at Hansberry College Prep where she introduces students to her personal collection of historical documents. She has for several years collected letters written by soldiers at war. Flea markets, antique shops, craigslist, and the Facebook marketplace are frequent shopping spots for Mrs. Saltsider as she tries to grow her collection. Students have the opportunity to study, catalog, and learn about how historians study the past through her collection.

Written by: Franciso Huerta, Hansberry College Prep

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