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Mapping the Life of George Strother Gaines (lesson plan)

OVERVIEW

Our histories, both private and collective, are often touched in significant ways by unsung heroes. In studying the life of George Strother Gaines (1784-1873), students will be exposed to a not-so-well-known resident of the Mississippi Territory whose life was spent primarily in service to others. Students will realize the impact of this one person on the history and development of both Mississippi and Alabama. It is hoped they will view Gaines as an outstanding citizen of the period whose example as a servant/leader is worth emulating.

CURRICULAR CONNECTIONS

Mississippi Studies Framework: Competencies 1, 2, 3, 4, 5.

TEACHING LEVELS

Grades 4 (with modifications) through 12.

MATERIALS AND EQUIPMENT

Mississippi History Now article

Mississippi History/Studies textbooks

Assorted maps

Butcher Paper/Markers for mapping exercise

Silhouette cut-outs (can be either student- or teacher-generated)

OBJECTIVES

Students will:

relate the major events in the life of George Gaines through a mapping exercise;

recognize Gaines’ accomplishments in the areas of government and economic development;

evaluate the role played by Gaines in the development of Mississippi and Alabama.

OPENING THE LESSON

Ask students to describe a good citizen. Let them also talk about “unsung” heroes in order to determine that they understand the meaning of the term. Ask them to name some of their “unsung” heroes. Introduce them to the subject of the Mississippi History Now article, George S. Gaines. As students learn about him, they will be able to evaluate his role as a good citizen and “unsung” hero.

DEVELOPING THE LESSON

1.

Prepare students for the reading exercise by discussing the meaning of these vocabulary terms, patriarch and factor. Students should also understand the time period (territory/early statehood) and the boundaries of the Mississippi Territory.

2.

After reading the Mississippi History Now article, students will make a list of what they consider to be the accomplishments of Gaines throughout his life.

3.

Teacher will place three categories on the board or overhead: 1) service to Choctaws; 2) leader in economic development; 3) public (government) service. Ask students to now categorize Gaines’ accomplishments.

4.

Tell students they will trace a history of Gaines’ life by completing a map of the eastern part of the United States (from the Mississippi River east to the Atlantic).

5.

In small learning groups, students will use three different colors to trace the events of Gaines’ life. For example, they will use a red marker to show all the locations of events connected to his service to the Choctaws. Either in a key or accompanying page, students will explain exactly what happened at each location. Students will need maps of the eastern United States, the Mississippi Territory, and county/road maps of Mississippi and Alabama to use as guides.

6.

As students complete the mapping, ask them to think of personal characteristics that enabled Gaines to accomplish so much in his lifetime. Have each group (or individual) prepare an adjective acrostic to describe Gaines. You may wish them to illustrate the acrostic in some way. Example:

 

G

 

 

A

 

 

I

 

E

N

 E R G E T I C

 

E

 

 

S

 

7.

Ask students to write a short essay about Gaines. Have them discuss whether or not he was a “good” citizen and to speculate how the history of the area might have been different if he had not been a part of it.

CONCLUDING THE LESSON

Lead students in a discussion of “unsung” heroes in their lives and communities. Let them make a display of silhouettes with the titles or occupations of their “unsung” heroes. For example: PASTOR; SCOUT LEADER; FIREFIGHTER; POLICEMAN OR POLICEWOMAN; NURSE. If possible, have the display available at a PTA meeting or some other community event. Give each student a mini silhouette as an encouragement to think of themselves as good citizens and “unsung” heroes.

ASSESSING STUDENT LEARNING

1.

Accuracy of maps

2.

Acrostic

3.

Class participation

4.

Essay

EXTENDING THE LESSON

1.

Have students write a newspaper obituary for Gaines.

2.

Some students may wish to write a letter to their “unsung” hero.

3.

Construct a bio-poem. (See Mississippi History Now lesson on Richard Wright for an example.)

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