APUSH students creating history encompassing mural

Students Meghan Chagdes and Christopher Paulson have made history … sort of. They have worked outside of class to create a History Board in teacher Jeremiah Longnecker’s classroom. 

Chagdes, a senior, started creating the board last year while she was in Longnecker’s AP U.S. History class but had gotten too busy to finish the project, so Paulson, a junior, picked it back up due to his interest in finishing it. Although the storyboard is not quite finished, Paulson has ideas on how to complete the last remaining time period. 

Longnecker said how he does not take any responsibility for coming up with the idea. “AP U.S. History is divided into nine time periods. The drawing is a connected visual representation of American history that uses significant events from each specific time period to tell a story.  Incidentally, the mural was Meghan’s idea, not mine,” Longnecker said. 

Chagdes said that her inspiration to create the board comes from always wanting to be drawing. “I found myself in Longnecker’s room a lot my junior year, whether to remediate APUSH tests or to just spend my power hour. The black space on his APUSH board just bothered me, so I asked him if he had plans to put something there,” Chagdes said. “He explained that his former students were going to print out images but never had time. My brain wants to doodle on everything, and the board was a perfect canvas, so I asked if I could do illustrations on it. He told me I was more than welcome to, so that’s what I spent my power hours doing.” 

Eventually with finals coming up, Chagdes said that she did not have time to finish the board but was excited to see someone decided to finish the job. “My classes shifted and got harder, and I couldn’t justify spending my time drawing instead of studying. I did feel really bad about it,” Chagdes said. “I am so happy someone else took it up.” 

Paulson said he saw the opportunity, and it led to his interest to finish the board. “I think a classroom filled with art and projects is important for the atmosphere of a classroom. How excited would you be to learn if you walked on the first day and the wall was blank everywhere compared to how excited you would feel when you see that the teacher let a student doodle all over the wall?” 

The board is drawn in great detail, with the nine time periods printed onto signs, and underneath drawings representing the time period’s most monumental events all being tied together within
the drawing, flowing and connecting together. It was very intricately designed, even including a woman holding a sign under the fourth and fifth periods, with women’s rights symbols and a sign that reads, “VOTE.” The board even goes into detail including small bullets shot on the drawn battlefield. 

Paulson said that Bob Ross really inspired his process in finishing the board. “The marker [Chagdes] used was unfamiliar to me. I ended up covering my hands in the dye the first few days of using it. One day when I filled in the clouds above the government building it leaked down and covered the right side in ink, so I drew the sun to the right side and attempted to make it look like light striking the right side. [As Bob Ross said,] ‘We don’t make mistakes, just happy little accidents.,’” Paulson said. 

The ultimate goal of creating a board such as this one was to help visual learners really understand the different parts of history within the classroom, and Chagdes said that she hopes it will help other visual learners in the long run. “As a visual learner, having images of what each unit contains is really important to help visualize each event and concept. It turns words into something tangible. I also am someone who looks around classrooms a lot, so to have something interesting to look at,” Chagdes said. “Hopefully, this helps students like me.”

Longnecker said the board took a tremendous amount of effort to create, and he would even like to try to incorporate it into the new high school. “Especially for Chris because he had to pick up where Meghan left off and make it seem fluid, like it wasn’t done by two different people. He did an incredible job. He still needs to finish Period Nine, but he already knows what he wants to do,” Longnecker said. “It is fun to have students who are willing to use and show off their creativity for the benefit of others. Both of them have come in on their own time, not during class time, to work on it.  It is something that I want to transfer to the new high school. It is cool to have people come into the classroom and spend time looking at it. I am really proud of Meghan and Chris for what they’ve done for my otherwise, very uninteresting classroom.”

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