Originally published in The Weekly Packet, November 8, 2018
Hands-on learning takes BHCS students back 1,500 years
Fifth graders, from left, Abel Morris-Nevells, Judson Butler and Odin Saunders view the collection of Ancient Roman gold coins during class at Blue Hill Consolidated School.
by Anne Berleant
Blue Hill Consolidated School teacher Mark Baxter posed this question to his fifth grade social studies class: “When we talk about early U.S. history, where do we start?”
The correct answer, Europe, became a starting point for a class that had students examining ancient Roman coins 1,500 to 2,000 years old, paid for by a $500 grant from the BHCS Booster Club.
Baxter said he was surprised he was easily, and relatively cheaply, able to obtain the coins but discovered that, despite their age, the coins were not especially rare.
“I didn’t think you could get an old gold coin outside of a museum—or on a teacher’s salary,” he told his class, before weaving together ancient Roman banking practices (burying coins before going off to war), coin production (each new emperor would issue new coins with his face) and population growth (digging foundations for new houses unearth the coins).
As students passed the centuryies-old coins from hands to hands, Baxter said they would have a chance to clean them, using cola and sand, identify them through research, and then write a description of each one.
“I can’t wait to see what they look like without all the dirt on them,” one student said, while another exclaimed, “I can’t believe we get to do this project. I’m so excited!”
“As a teacher, anytime I can bring project-based learning into my class, I am excited about doing so,” Baxter said after the class ended. “This project, in particular, is really exciting. … My students will have the opportunity to hold, work on, research, and be a part of uncovering history. I cannot think of a more exciting learning opportunity for my students and the community [as] a whole.”
The project, when completed, will be displayed at the school and the Blue Hill Public Library.