Emily States – Daniel Smith and Rock Castle Lesson Plans
Project Process Essay by Emily States
My final project is most certainly not what the original project was. Originally, the project was to be a travel brochure to essentially take people on a tour through the historic sites of Sumner County, Tennessee. After realizing that to be more extensive a project than I intended it to be, I reduced the area down to the historic sites of my hometown, Hendersonville, TN, in Sumner County. Despite the amount of history in the county, it turned out that Hendersonville is a relatively new city, but the area is historic. Only three sites were found that truly fit the criteria I desired. Despite there being three, I again reduced the size of my project to just focus on one site, historic Rock Castle.
This historic site was the home of Daniel Smith, the first surveyor of the state of Tennessee. The historical significance of this home and the story of Daniel Smith are important in Tennessee history, not to mention the significance to the city of Hendersonville and to the nation. The other historic homes in Hendersonville are important, too, but Rock Castle and Daniel Smith proved to be important in more significant areas, not just to the city. More importantly, and relating to the class, I wanted to experience going to a site I had never been to. Though it was literally a half-mile from the house I grew up in, I had never been. An important message, if not the most important, from this class is to utilize the history around you and to participate in public history. The site was perfect.
Because my project now focused on one site, the idea of using a travel brochure was not usable. Instead, I decided to make a lesson plan for high school students since my goal is to be a high school history teacher. Using the State of Tennessee Curriculum Standards for Social Studies, my goal was to build a lesson plan based on Rock Castle and Daniel Smith for 11th graders.1 Upon discovery, 11th grade does not address the correct time period for Rock Castle. (http://www.tennessee.gov/education/ci/ss/index.shtml) Not only that, but the high school curriculum does not cover it. Upon further research, I discovered that 4th grade and 8th grade standards would be best appropriate.
Doing research on the internet proved to be helpful. It did give me background information on the site and who Daniel Smith was. It may seem odd but even growing up in Hendersonville I had no idea who he was. Because of my research, I had a few important facts on who Smith was and his impact on the state of Tennessee. I knew, though, the best way I could form a lesson was to participate by going on a tour of Rock Castle. After going on the tour, I felt like I knew exactly who Daniel Smith was. I could not believe the impact he made on the state. He was the first surveyor, named the state, a United States senator, and an Indian negotiator. This man accomplished a lot that impacts Tennesseans today.
After going on the tour, I took time to write down ideas for lesson plans and what I could do to relate the story of Daniel Smith the 4th and 8th graders. I thought most important I would give students the opportunity to take a field trip and go on the tour themselves. Not only would that be “fun learning” by getting students out of the classroom, but it would also allow them to participate in public history and learn about their state and the important people that helped create it. Also, upon returning to the classroom, there would be class discussions and activities relating directly to the trip. Through discussion and writing exercises, the curriculum requirements set forth by the state of Tennessee would be fulfilled and two formal lesson plans are complete.
I was very blessed to be taking another course this semester called Teaching Historical Thinking. It is basically a class that teaches how to teach history. In it, we had to create a formal lesson plan to be presented to the class. The knowledge that I gained in this class was applied to this project. I knew how to create a lesson plan that could be used inside a classroom and the approach to use when making a lesson plan. To not have curriculum standards that would fit for high school was frustrating, which is why I had to change the grades. Based on the standards, this project also helped me determine that I would not want to teach elementary school children. The standards for elementary school are more extensive, as they have to cover all subjects. My focus is just on history and some cross-pollination.
Once I had determined a clear idea of what I wanted to do, everything else just seemed to fall into place. The hardest part of the project was the constant tweaking of plans because this part was not going to fit. Having too much information was bad for my project; however it does prove to be good for the overall picture of public history in Sumner County, TN. Another benefit to help me in my project was determining where I wanted to go once I finished my degree. Finalizing my decision to become a teacher helped me decide what to do. Writing lesson plans are certainly in my future and this would only benefit me. I enjoyed having the freedom to be able to be flexible with my project instead of being told exactly what to do. It allowed me to be creative and focus on what I was interested it.
This project directly relates to the public’s understanding of public history. Granted, the “public” in this case are 4th and 8th graders, but they are public too! I do not believe that people include students as being part of the “public history audience” because often, whatever they are doing in just a requirement or assignment for a class. It goes further than that. That is why I felt it important to take the students on a field trip to actually “see” the site. I know that I have understood an interpretation of a site much better upon actually attending the site. This was one of my main goals for the lesson plans. Without the participation of the students going to the site, the lesson plan would have been shaped completely different.
Also, my participation in going on a tour helped to strengthen my knowledge of Daniel Smith. This project got me out into the realm of public history and helped me participate. This class gave me a different interpretation of the tour as well. I found myself asking questions that I never would have thought of had it not been for the class. The tour had a different affect on me. This class has helped me look at history through different (better!) eyes and I feel that I have only benefitted from taking the course.