Recently, the third graders embarked on a journey into the history and culture of Louisiana. This project-based unit, aptly called Louisiana Lagniappe, focused on telling local stories in a way that discovers connections and teaches students our unique history and culture in a meaningful way.
The project began with a focus on our Capital city. Each student wrote about and discussed a personal experience they have had in Baton Rouge. This exercise helped the students tell their own stories, in their own words, but also helped them to see their city from different perspectives and find connections among each other.
Learning about Baton Rouge (luckily) required students to leave the classroom. They conducted their own field research at historical locations such as the Old State Capitol, the Old Governor’s Mansion and the Rural Life Museum. These field trips were not only fun for students, but provided an age-appropriate history lesson - particularly concerning some of the more sensitive parts of our history. The students were captivated by actually being inside of an old schoolhouse or slave quarter, and left with a renewed appreciation of the blessings they have in their lives.
The second phase of the project extended the project’s focus to include the entire state of Louisiana. This broader Louisiana history lesson began with the Native Americans, and how places like Baton Rouge got their name (“Red Stick”). Students were especially intrigued to discover that our ancestors, such as the Native Americans and the Cajuns, lived off the land and believed in not wasting a thing; they used everything.
Students also learned about the cultural significance of the French, Cajuns and African
Americans to our state’s music, art, cuisine and dance. Students were fortunate to hear our local “cultural experts” share their experiences with them..
Our cultural experts were:
Because of Louisiana’s rich heritage and culture, this unit provided a variety of topics for students to explore, ranging from Mardi Gras and the history of the Bacchus parade to Plantation architecture and the influence of the Mississippi River. Students learned about the impact the river had on transportation and development in the state of Louisiana, and sketched and designed their own steamboats.
Louisiana Lagniappe culminated with Phase Three with parents visiting each classroom and experiencing what students experienced. Students taught their parents how to Cajun dance, draw a Blue dog and taste different kinds of Cajun food. At the end of the unit, each student had a portfolio with writing and drawings documenting their experiences. Throughout the project, students learned to both listen and make notes in order to reflect facts and specifics, but to write from their own words. This resulted in many students realizing how much writing and the types of writing they were capable of. To end with a quote from a third grade parent about The Louisiana Expo,..“Fantastic Day! I am so impressed they know and have learned so much. Great work! I am so happy!”
Michie Banjo is a traditional creole folk song. The lyrics describe him as very dressed up and out for a stroll in New Orleans, possibly in Congo Square. He wore a chapeau, high button shoes (that squeak!), a diamond pin in his tie, fancy pleated pants and he carried a walking stick (for show, of course). The original song was performed with banjo and bamboula, a bamboo-drum. Third grade students created his strutting walk and fancy clothing embellishments with Orff instrument patterns and conga drums.