Noteable: Dan PeppercornBy Marin Jorgensen
Dan Peppercorn, Ed.M.’02, is an eighth-grade teacher and social studies curriculum coordinator. He is a former all-state athlete and coach who performs improv, makes films, and is working on a humorous novel. His latest book, Creative Adventures in Social Studies: Engaging Activities & Essential Questions to Inspire Students, was recently published.
Program: Teacher Education Program
Teaching inspirations: His parents, former teachers Bill Schechter and Florence Aldrich-Bennett, films Freedom Writers and Dead Poets Society, and John Hughes
His students may suspect otherwise, but Dan Peppercorn insists that he and the legendary (in his classroom, anyway) King Pepper are not one and the same.
“Some of my students think I put on a crown, white beard, and cape and magically transform into King Pepper,” Peppercorn jokes. “I don’t know how they can think that since I have a picture in my classroom in which we’re standing next to each other.”
The fictional King Pepper is one of the many creative devices that Peppercorn uses in his social studies class at Thurston Middle School in Westwood, Mass., to promote a fun and interactive learning experience for his students.
“As a kid I loved gym and drama because we got to move around, be part of a team, and be creative,” he says.
Peppercorn’s approach — building activities around topics students enjoy such as pop culture, sports, and current events — has been so successful in getting his students excited about social studies that he decided to share it in his new book, Creative Adventures in Social Studies: Engaging Activities & Essential Questions to Inspire Students.
In addition to presenting a variation of King Pepper, who presides over a simulation of the American colonies in which students earn money, pay taxes, create laws, and bid on prizes in an auction, the book includes lessons such as Musical Acts with Newsical Facts, in which students take pop songs and write new lyrics about current and historical events, and Fantasy Senate Races, a political election version of a fantasy sports league.
Peppercorn hopes that educators at all grade levels will find the activities in his book useful, especially those who are struggling, as he had, to find a reference of this kind.
“When I started teaching, I worked for a principal who said, ‘Teachers should try to get their students to love learning.’ In that spirit, I kept looking for a book that had a year’s worth of meaningful and creative social studies activities that I could incorporate into my curriculum,” Peppercorn says. “In the end, I decided to write the book I was looking for.”