Overview: Middle school lesson connecting history and design through Freedom’s Frigate.
On a lazy Sunday morning as the school year wound down, Matt and I were hanging out watching CBS Sunday Morning. As art educators, we find cool things and great little blurbs on the program. This particular morning was great, because there were two fantastic features. One was about U2 ,the greatest band in the world, and one about replica of the French frigate, Hermione, nicknamed “Freedom’s Frigate.”
I’ll save the U2 discussion for another article but heads up – we are big fans and those four band mates from Ireland as they continue to impact #TeamGrundler. However, we’ll focus in to share with you the true spark of inspiration from the program was “Freedom’s Frigate.” It was and is a truly beautiful ship; the lines, the craftsmanship, engineering, and hard work that were required to recreate the Hermione are phenomenal.
The original Hermione was a tall French Frigate acting as the ferry for Major General Lafayette to bring news of French reinforcements to the American Revolutionary War. She went on to play a supporting role in the Battle of Chesapeake, where the French Navy secured a strategic victory helping the Americans gain independence. The history is rich. The contemporary information contained within the story of the production and sailing journey of the Hermione provides a wealth of fodder for lesson planning.
Not only was the ship filled with amazing stories about its history, but it was filled with a crew that had to work together in order for the ship to function efficiently. The entire crew knew their roles on the boat and knew how important each job was to the success of this ship. With the reconstruction of this ship, many of its master builders had to relearn skills for creating, which had been lost over time. This major collaboration was such a marvel, that the British had captured it’s sister ship, La Concord,e and had the design of it drawn out by their top drafters just to gain a better understanding of its capabilities.
We loved the idea of connecting this wonderful ship to the freedom of our citizens and arts together, rolling them into a lesson plan for inspiration. Matt does a lesson with his third grade students about building a model of ship to represent the entire class. This means that there will be a total of 5 different ships, all representing 5 different classes of students. Each student in the class must learn to collaborate with each other for a final product to come together. Much like all of the people coming together for the Hermione to be reconstructed and sail! In the depths of this lesson is the concept of collaboration, a true skill that continues to be needed and understood by anyone who will be working with another human being.
The key to finding great ideas for arts integrated lessons is just to look. They are everywhere when you start thinking about the world – most everything involves the arts. Consider design: what it takes to design something like the Hermione, the creativity, problem solving, critical thinking – all of which combine the arts with math, physics, history etc.
Stories like the Hermione’s give us a wonderful resource for a rich depth in lesson planning and in turn, a high student level of engagement that is rigorous and elevates learning. We challenge you to continue to explore and look for the idea that sparks and pushes your arts integrated lesson plan to the next level. Because it really is as close as your morning cup of coffee and favorite weekend program (CBS Sunday Morning).
Wishing you creative experiences,
Matt & Laura Grundler
Laura and Matt Grundler are art educators from Plano, Texas. They are also proud parents, bloggers and founders of the popular Twitter Chat #K12ArtChat. After teaching middle school art, high school art and working as an assistant principal, Laura has moved into the role of district Visual Arts Coordinator. Matt started out as a graphic designer; however after finding the commercial side of design to be unsatisfying, he soon found his niche as a K-5 Art teacher. Both Laura and Matt are passionate about raising their three creative kids, sharing their love of art education with their professional learning network and continuing to grow everyday.