Search form

Donna Kielty


"Every year I am so impressed with how creative the family history projects are," says Donna Kielty. "From an oatmeal box Leaning Tower of Pisa to a shoebox double-decker bus, the projects are so enjoyable to see. There is so much pride as the students share information about their countries."

This double-decker bus diorama
was created by Maeve.

A few years ago, when Clarke School in Swampscott, Massachusetts, revised its social studies curriculum, Kielty and Judy Flynn, the other second grade teacher in the school, developed the family history project to complement it. The new curriculum focuses on who "Americans" are, from Native Americans to recent immigrants. "The students see that unless they are Native American, their families originally came from somewhere else," explained Kielty.

"Our curriculum also includes learning about famous landmarks from other countries," Kielty added. "This project ties everything together nicely in a way that students can connect to themselves."

Riain takes students down under
with his Australian culture kit.

After the class completes a unit on Native Americans and Kielty offers a brief introduction to immigration in America, her students are challenged to find out about their own heritage. Parent support is encouraged as students take on their first assignment -- to create a family history report, in which they discuss two countries their ancestors came from. The reports include flags, maps, and reports about famous sites from each country. After the reports are shared, students create a "family history project" about one of the countries. The project can be done in several possible formats:

  • Culture Kit: Fill a box with five items that relate to your country. Decorate the box so it reflects your country. Then write about the significance of the five items.
  • Diorama: Create a diorama of a famous site and write a brief paragraph about it.
  • Travel Poster: Create a travel poster showing several sights to see in your country.
  • Language Picture Dictionary: Learn eight words in the language of your country. Write each word and its English equivalent, and draw a picture for each page.
Jacob's eye-catching windmill
diorama is a Dutch delight.

Kielty's students display their projects during "Bring Your Family Back to School Night." One memorable project was a four-foot-high Eiffel Tower made out of K'NEX, with Matchbox cars driving under it. Its creator even found a box to hold it and to serve as the backdrop for his diorama!

"Another student constructed an Australian culture kit," said Kielty. "When decorating the box, the student created an I SPY game. He used many Australian pictures, such as boomerangs, koalas, photos of himself in Australia, and so on, and then made a game out of the box. He wrote up a card with the items for people to find on the box. The card contained such lines as, 'Can you find five boomerangs, a koala in a tree' It was very creative!"

One of the aspects Kielty most appreciates about the family history project is that it encourages family participation, and she is grateful to be a part of a school in which families are very involved. The project not only reaches out to parents and helps students understand their roots, but it has direct and practical connections to the curriculum.

Photos provided by Donna Kielty.

Coming Soon...

If you're a teacher who has completed an interesting or unusual activity with your class -- or if you know of a teacher who has -- please let us know about it. E-mail a brief description of the activity, along with your contact information, to [email protected].

Article by Cara Bafile
Education World®
Copyright © 2006 Education World