INQUIRY 8: CAUSATION
Was it a Chain Reaction or a Web of Intrigue?
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Note: This activity is best suited to middle and high school students. It has also been developed to fit with the formats used in the National History Day competition program.
What is causation? How do decisions, ideas, actions, and reactions combine to cause historic events?
Causation refers to the act or process of producing an effect, result, or consequence. Like a detective solving a mystery, historians study the causation of past events to determine the motives, reasons, reactions, and consequences that led to their occurrence. When we ask a question like, "Why did the Narrows Bridge fall down?" or "How did the women of Washington earn the right to vote?" the causes were many and there is no single answer.
Some people believe that causation is like a chain reactionone event leads in a straight line to another, and that to another, and so on. Other historical researchers see causation as a web where each act, decision, and motive intertwine to create a unique web of intrigue that results in a big event. What do you think?
Inquiry Set-up for Students:
You be the detective. Of all the articles you have come across in your sets of newspapers, pick the one based on an event that intrigues you the most. Your goal is to determine whether the event was the result of a chain reaction or a web of intrigue. Your research and presentation will support your claimyour definition of causation.
In order to do this, you will need to investigate the before and after of the event and make sure to ask (and find the answers to) the following questions:
- Why was your event considered newsworthy?
- What were the motives, ideas, actions, reactions, and/or decisions that set the stage for your event?
- What happened in the days, months or years after your event was reported? Were there any significant changes or impacts on your event?
Once you have researched and identified the causes and effects leading up to and resulting from your event, create one of the following projects to illustrate your "web of intrigue" or "chain reaction" theory.
- A written paper describing each cause and effect related to the event as well as your causation theory (web or chain).
- A video or computer multi-media presentation that presents each cause and effect related to the event as well as your causation theory (web or chain).
- A performance (individual or group) that dramatically presents each cause and effect related to the event as well as your causation theory (web or chain).
- A three-dimensional exhibit that illustrates and explains each cause and effect related to the event as well as your causation theory (web or chain).
Step 1: Begin by introducing the student inquiry set-up.
Step 2: Brainstorm with the students a long list of events. If you are teaching a Pacific Northwest or Washington State history class, you can restrict the selection to PNW history.
Step 3: Have students select an event described in one of the newspaper articles past or present to research and present in one of the established National History Day formats. If you need additional information on National History Day programs, contact Kathy Bradford at Washington History Day, Central Washington University, 400 E. 8th Ave. Ellensburg, WA 98926-7553; email: email@example.com or via Internet address http://www.cwu.edu/~history/hstryday/.
Step 4: Help students brainstorm ideas about where to gather information regarding their topics. Always remind students to DIG DEEPER!
Step 5: Provide in-class work time for students to review their research with you and address information gathering and interpreting.
Step 6: Students develop their papers, performances, multimedia presentations, and exhibits for presentation to the class, school administrators, and parents. Those students who wish to may enter their projects in the local National History Day competition. Winners at the local levels go on to regional, state, and national competition.
Reading 1.1, 1.2, 1.5, 2.1-2.3, 3.1, 3.2
Writing 1.1, 1.2, 1.3, 2.2, 3.1-3.5
Communication 2.1, 2.3-2.5, 3.1-3.3, 4.1-4.4
History 1,1-1.3, 2.1-2.3, 3.1-3.3
Arts 3.1, 3.3, 4.1, 4.4