Thanks to a collaboration with a local museum, a group of students are discovering that combining writing and history stimulate new ways to learn.
During a recent trip, the fourth graders in Ashley Tafoya’s class listened to the museum’s education coordinator, Nathan Doerr talk to the students about the Mad Hatter in Lewis Carroll;s Alice in Wonderland stories.
Doerr quoted the Mad Hatter by asking “Why is a raven like a writing desk?” While the Hatter didnt really know the answer, students at least could use the writing desk! Doerr explained why the Hatter was mad. It trns out that hat makers in those days suffered from mercury poisoning.
According to Doerr, hat makers collected hair from beaver pelts, and mixed it with water and mercury. “Then they would apply heat. What they didn’t realize is: When they heated the mercury, it made fumes. And they breathed in those fumes,” Doerr said. “Breathing in the fumes poisoned a hat maker’s brain and made him go crazy, or mad.”
That bit of information was just a part of what the students learned at the museum. By finding out the truth about history, and relating it to literature, they were able to learn both at the same time and improve their own writing.