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Traveling Through Time to Rethink the US Constitution

Traveling Through Time to Rethink the US Constitution

This post will offer you windows into the Opal 3 classroom (children ages 9 – 11 years) as they travelled through time as characters of their own creation from each decade of American History. You can read about further context for this project by clicking here.

It's not uncommon for fourth and fifth graders in the United States to be introduced to the American history and the US Constitution. As you read the following post about the historical travels of these 9 – 11 year old Opal students consider: What is the role of playful inquiry in guiding this investigation?


After the first travel through time, the characters met in small groups to get to know one another. They brought artifacts with them from their decade and "got to know one another". They enjoyed imagining the voice and perspective of their character, and the differences in experience they might encounter had these characters really travelled through time. In this snippet, you'll hear our boy from 1960 try and explain a car to our boy from 1770. (Note: these snippets do end abruptly as they were captured informally– they are just intended to provide small glimpses into the feeling of the work.)

Download Cash:IsaacMVI_7210.AVI (62257.5K) 

The time machine, which we used several times to convene through time, was programmed to bring us all to Philadelphia for the Constitutional Convention– so the wisdom of our posterity could return to the beginning to tell the Framers how things had worked out.

These meetings were facilitated by a small group of adults who played the Framers. They were improvisational, playful, and full of authentic opportunities for thinking.

Here you can see what happened just before the meeting convened the first time. Our girl from the 1920's brought some of her favorite music to share:

Download dancingMVI_7222.AVI (210119.5K) 

The meeting began with some sharing about what each character had learned about the future that they were glad to know. Here are some samples of that discussion:

Download suffrageMVI_7224.AVI (50300.6K) 

Download slaveryMVI_7225.AVI (72146.5K) 

Download discrimMVI_7226.AVI (129334.1K) 

Download natamMVI_9352.AVI (208593.4K) 

In this last snippet, you hear our girl from the 1930's contemplate the union. The playful attitute and atmosphere inviting her to think deeply about big and complex ideas for our society and history.

Download unitedMVI_9330.AVI (117635.0K) 


How does the use of playful inquiry support the children to learn to think like historians? What implications does observing the skills older children use through playful inquiry hold for teachers of younger children? How do you articulate the power of play after watching these children at work and reading through the transcripts in the "Playing with History" post?

We'd love to read your thoughts about these questions in the comments field below or the discussion forum!

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