From imagining what posters an 18th century teenager would put on their bedroom walls, to constructing a “Stuart Burger” to remember the English monarchy, tenth-grade students in AP European History are engaging in novel classroom activities that go beyond the textbook. These activities are designed to help embed details from the curriculum into students’ long-term memory.
History Teacher Kelly Anderson has taught AP European History at St. Andrew's for the past four years. She said activities like constructing blueprints of Dutch cities and scripting a theoretical “Twitter fight” between scholars during the Scientific Revolution are strategies designed to help students remember information from throughout the school year as they prepare for their AP exam.
“The textbook that we use is a very complex, dense, college-level textbook, which is appropriate for AP because it is college-level placement. However, students need to process and make meaning out of that information in their own ways,” Anderson said. “If we try all these different ways, eventually they will find ways that help them process the information that makes it feel less intimidating and allows them to fold it into their schema in a way that will not just be memorized and forgotten.”
Anderson typically begins her class periods with a novel activity, as a “warm-up” that primes students for learning. Many of the activities were created by other educators, who post about them in social media communities for AP European History teachers; Anderson invented the pop-culture teenage walls project, which she shared online and is now used by teachers across the country.
Ian Sabin ’25 said he especially enjoyed creating the Dutch city blueprints and analyzing the poem “The Fifth of November” as part of their study of the Gunpowder Plot. Projects like the Stuart Burger also serve as useful study tools, Sabin added.
“It’s nice to have a different way of looking at it, rather than, ‘This is a person, and this is what they did,’” Sabin said. “We do the reading, we analyze it, and then we get to do a fun project about it.”
A highlight for Kate Odell ’25 was “art day,” when students did a gallery walk of Baroque, Mannerist, and Dutch Realism art.
“In the textbook, it talks about the people and how their actions affected history. It was really cool to see how their policies affected art, and how you can look at a painting and tell exactly what was happening,” Odell said.
“History is really easy to learn by studying the facts, but when you have these other activities, it feels more like a story,” she added.
As students memorize information about the Renaissance and the Congress of Vienna, they are encouraged to apply what they’ve learned to examine the history through a critical lens, asking themselves questions like, “What does ‘important’ mean?” “Who is affected by this historical event?” and “What bias does the historian have?” The activities and analytical skills go hand in hand, Anderson said.
“We question historians and we question people,” Anderson said. “If you make these historical figures into people and well-rounded individuals, you then feel like you can ask those questions. You feel able to make your own meaning and say, ‘I am able to shape this information, in an educated way, as I see fit.’
“We don’t accept. We question, which we teach throughout our history courses.”