Established in 2012, the Barnett Shoals Elementary School Time Machine Project was designed to enhance students’ understanding and appreciation of history by providing students with the opportunity to interact with historical figures who visit their classroom through an imaginary time machine.
“There is something really exciting for students about someone coming through a time machine to visit them,” said Megan LePere-Schloop, creator of the Time Machine Project.
Modeled after a similar program established by her mother, a retired Detroit public school teacher, LePere-Schloop said she feared seeing creative teaching endeavors being pushed aside due to overwhelming pressure on teachers and schools to perform well on standardized tests.
“I wanted to try to bring as much of a living historical experience to Isabella (her first-grade daughter) as I could, as well as the other students in her school,” LePere-Schloop said.
Portrayed by volunteers (including several graduate students at the University of Georgia), Abraham Lincoln, Eleanor Roosevelt, Susan B. Anthony and Ida B. Wells traveled through time to speak and interact with K-5th grade students at the school this past year.
After a visit from Eleanor Roosevelt, one third grade teacher wrote, “They have not stopped talking about all that they learned. The information the character shared met all the standards and they did a really great job explaining their point of view through history. This is an awesome program and very beneficial to our children at Barnett Shoals.”
LePere-Schloop is optimistic that by giving students the chance to directly encounter the historical figures in their books, they will become engaged and energized about learning.
“Part of the impetus of this was to highlight different kinds of historical figures other than the usual suspects- to bring some diversity of historical perspectives into the classroom,” LePere-Schloop explained.
Portraying Ida B. Wells, Jennifer Johnson, a master of public administration candidate in UGA’s School of Public and International Affairs, was able to encourage students to think critically about social issues of the early 1900’s. “Before I spoke to them, Susan B. Anthony was an inaccessible figure whose picture frightened them. During my time, they opened up, asking critical questions of this figure, and analyzing for themselves the issues surrounding abolition and women's suffrage,” Johnson explained.
LePere-Schloop hopes to expand the program by enlisting more University of Georgia students willing to research, costume themselves, and “perform” as historical figures over the course of the school year.