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Schools Last Updated: Apr 5, 2013 - 11:31:41 AM


DIS history students open gates to creativity
By Elizabeth Bush
Apr 5, 2013 - 11:28:31 AM

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Aaron Manley took a particular interest in the project. As a relative of Philip Simmons, he was happy to get an assignment that would help him learn more about a special family member who touched so many with his work.
Jonathan Griffith instructed his students to design their own gates on paper using symbols of South Carolina history.

It was a rather unconventional social studies assignment, one that didn’t involve the usual reading of chapters, memorizing timelines or making Power Point presentations. Last month, history became art for a group of 8th grade students in Jonathan Griffith’s class at Daniel Island School.  
Thanks to curriculum from the Philip Simmons Foundation donated to the school by the Daniel Island Historical Society, the students got a hands-on opportunity to learn more about Simmons’ craft. First they watched a video about Simmons, a Master Blacksmith born on Daniel Island whose renowned and revered iron gates are on display throughout the Charleston region. Next, Griffith instructed them to design their own gates on paper using symbols of South Carolina history.
“I like it,” said student Claire Conway, as she outlined her pencil drawing in black ink. “It gives us a chance to do something different.”
“I thought it was fun,” added Bryce Skipper, who used sun symbols in his gate drawing. “We got tips from the video. It looked pretty cool!”
“It’s South Carolina history,” said Katie Conley, of her gate’s design. “It explains things we see every day.”
Griffith was impressed with what his students came up with. Some used birds, palmetto trees, moons, and snakes to tell a story with their gates, much like Simmons did with his own designs.
“They did make the connection,” said Griffith, who also serves on the Executive Board for the Daniel Island Historical Society. “And with Philip Simmons, they loved that he was part of Daniel Island.”
“I didn’t think gates had much to do with South Carolina history,” added Jazzmare Williams, one of Griffith’s students. “But now I think it’s cool. It’s neat to see what Mr. Simmons did.”
One student, Aaron Manley, took a particular interest in the project. As a relative of Philip Simmons, he was happy to get an assignment that would help him learn more about a special family member who touched so many with his work.  
“I realized designing gates takes a lot of creativity,” said Manley, while putting the finishing touches on his drawing. “It showed me a lot about gates.”
Griffith planned to display the students’ work when their projects were complete. He hopes to expand the curriculum to other grades next year. As the students examined each others’ drawings, it was clear the lesson had opened a new gate of understanding into the life of a man who holds a revered place in South Carolina history.   
“It means more,” added Conway. “It’s cool to know the person behind it.”

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