Only in Marilouise Mazzante’s Advanced Placement history classes could Galileo Galilei, Sir Isaac Newton and Nicolaus Copernicus meet and debate the wonders of the universe.
And they did just that as students in Mazzante’s classes. Dressed in period-appropriate clothing, students took on the personality of history’s most-influential scientists and philosophers for a recent research project.
The enlightenment salon project was created by Mazzante to recreate similar events that took place in the 17th and 18th centuries. In those times, individuals would gather and discuss many topics of the time, Mazzante explained. The Williamsport version of these events included discussions on formal education and religion.
Mazzante explained that students were able to choose the historical figure of their choice and were required to do research to find out their feelings and thoughts toward a variety of topics. They chose the individual they would like to research after a general study of the more well-known figures.
Students then are given the task of not only knowing information about the figure, but their beliefs and how they would interact with certain groups.
“Students are given a variety of questions that would stimulate discussions at the salons during that time period. They then research how their person would truly answer those questions, so as to be able to participate in the discussion,” Mazzante said. “The only part of this is the fact that they must also know how the others would respond in order to converse in the salon.”
Not only were students able to connect with the material, but Mazzante said it allowed them to see how the enlightenment period influenced America.
“(The goal of the project is) to learn how the enlightenment impacted the world at this time, as we in America were directly impacted by enlightenment ideas as seen in the development of our Constitution,” Mazzante said. “In addition, students learn much about the people that changed the world at this time.”
After discussing the project with students, Mazzante shared that students found the project to make a strong connection between them and the material.
Students commented to Mazzante that the project allowed them to learn more about the individuals than simply reading about them in a book.