202: Continuity & Change Over Time (Custer’s Last Stand or the Battle of Greasy Grass)







Pledge of Allegiance – Example of Continuity & Change
  • 1870’s – poem by Edward Bellamy to commemorate 400th anniversary of Christopher Columbus’ discovery
    • Bellamy salute – left hand on heart, right hand extended with palm facing the flag
    • “I pledge allegiance to my Flag and to the Republic for which it stands, one nation indivisible with liberty and Justice for all.
  • 1920’s –
    • “I pledge allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America and to the Republic for which it stands, one nation indivisible with liberty and Justice for all.
    • Due to concerns about anarchists and Communists and xenophobia about immigrants
  • 1930’s –
    • Bellamy salute -> right hand over heart
    • Differentiate American democracy from European fascism
  • 1950’s –
    • added phrase “under God”
    • Distinguish US’s religious freedom from Soviet Union’s banning of religion
Lesson with Pledge of Allegiance:
  • Early in the year, show students 3 forms of the pledge and ask them to:
    • identify major differences in the pledges
    • speculate reasons for changes in the pledges
Inspiration for lesson involving Custer’s last stand:
  • new evidence uncovered near the battle site caused historians to reexamine evidence of the battle
  • political lobbying by Native American community to rename the park and modify park exhibits that glorified Custer
  • why venerate Custer when he had died while many poor tactical decisions
Supporting lessons:
  • Students examine post-Civil War population movement westward.  Students examine:
    • Transcontinental Railroad
    • Homestead Act
    • Exoduster migration out of the South
    • Indian Wars
      • Sand Creek incident
      • pusuit and capture of Geronimo and Nez Perce
Little Big Horn Lesson:
  • Before the lesson, students read about the causes, course, and consequences of the Battle of Little Bighorn.
  • Project images of battle that represent 2 different perspectives – one that glorifies Custer and one painted by a Native American who had fought in the battle
    • after students discuss each image, teacher reveals the purpose, creator and timer period of the image
  • After discussion around images, teacher provides brief overview of the events that led to and define Custer’s last stand – summary of reading students had done earlier.  Students exposed to:
    • relationships among Plains Indian tribes, the settlers, and the military
    • battlefield actions
    • helps student understand context of the battle
  • Introduce driving question – students are members of the National Park Service who are charged with naming the battle site. Possibilities include:
    • The Battle of the Little Bighorn National Monument
    • Custer’s Last Stand National Battlefield
    • Sioux Victory National Battlefield
    • Custer’s Battlefield National Monument
    • Native Victory National Battlefield
    • Greasy Grass National Battlefield  (Native name for Little Bighorn River)
    • Little Bighorn National Memorial
    • Fill in the bank with your own choice
  • Students individually consider 1 of various assigned sources that represent different perspectives of the battle
  • Students in teams that include experts of each of the sources try to interpret all the evidence and come up with a name for the historical site
  • Student misconceptions
    • bias is a bad thing rather than a neutral thing (point of view) present in all history sources
    • truth is absolute, black or white, no grays – miss the idea that sources depict different people’s perspectives
    • sorting truthful from untruthful sources – this type of thinking oversimplifies the investigation
    • create interpretations colored by their own personal beliefs
    • false mathematical views of history – try to mathematically aggregate the sources to find the one right answer
  • Student gains
    • students see the need to consider multiple sources to come up with historical interpretations
    • students see the need to consider where sources came from
    • instead of interpreting history as accepting “other’s facts”, start using facts to make their own historical interpretations
    • roles played by main actors in the events humanize Indian Wars for students
    • students learn to pay attention to historical details in sources to make decisions
Science Connections:
  • Teachers can design lessons that cause students to investigate how our understanding of fundamental concepts has changed over time.  Core concepts that have evolved over time include:
    • gravity
    • energy
    • thermodynamics
    • atomic model
    • electromagnetism
    • evolution
    • nature of light
    • solar system models
  • Students can investigate how theories evolve over time due to
    • invention of new tools (both technological and mathematical)
    • application of old tools to new things
    • development of theoretical models
  • For ideas on how to structure this, see Now What? section below


Using historical sources to study how historical artifacts (such as the Pledge of Allegiance) and historical interpretations evolve over time can teach students to appreciate history in ways that are deeper than taking history merely at face value.  Learning how to consider more perspectives to develop more nuanced understandings of historical events will teach students skills they can apply in history and fields outside history in their future careers.


Note:  This is written for Science teachers.  For tips for history teachers, read the book or the summary of the book chapter in the WHAT? section of this article above.


Preparation Steps
  • Identify what concepts are the enduring understandings of your particular course
  • Research to determine if any of the enduring understandings have underpinnings that are continuum of models that evolved over time
  • Research to find several sources that:
    • focus on the evolution of model centered around once concept
    • offer a collection of models / understandings of the concept
    • use multiple methodologies to investigate the issue – different experimental studies, different theoretical models, etc.
    • are accessible to students with some vocabulary scaffolding support
  • Develop a driving question that can be investigated by all the sources – It could be something like:
    • Why is the model of ________________ evolving?  What should be the name of a research institute dedicated to the discoveries of the concept of __________?
  • Develop thinking sheets for each of the sources that ask students to consider:
    • what model is constructed to describe the phenomena?
    • what are the strengths of the model?
      • what type of phenomena are described well by the phenomena. Why?
    • what are the limitations of the model
      • what type of phenomena are not well described by the model.  Why?
    • what new discoveries led to the modifications present in the model?
    • who supports the model? why?
    • who does not support the model? why?
  • Decide which sources will serve as the launch source:
    • the launch source should hook students into the debate and transition well to the driving question
  • Design a project calendar with following phase:
    • launch – initial investigation and initial impression gathering phase
    • provide background overview that helps students have some holistic sense of why models are evolving
    • investigate individual sources individually
    • in groups share evidence in order to formulate answers to driving questions that consider evidence from multiple sources
    • students present their interpretations of the driving question to the class
    • debrief discussion that shares current accepted views of the phenomena and how the science community came to agreement on that model
Early Implementation Steps
  • Implement project calendar described above
  • Monitor students during individual investigation phase to make sure they are questioning and accurately describing he strengths and limitations of the models in their sources
  • Monitor students while they debate and formulate interpretations in their teams – make sure they are using evidence from their sources in their arguments
  • During debrief discussions, probe for questions, understandings and misconceptions
Advanced Implementation Steps
  • Get students to investigate a model that is still in development (ex – origin of the universe, expansion of the universe, dimensions of the universe) and extrapolate how that model might evolve in the future and the evidence that would be gathered to create projected changes in the model



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