The Enlightenment Salon transported Whitewater High AP European History classes back in time for an unforgettable experience. Earlier this year, students stepped into a time machine and flew back to 18th-century Paris for tea, crumpets, and intellectual conversation.
Salons in the 18th century were rooms within the homes of the upper-middle class where men and women alike could engage in conversation about politics, social inequality, and progressive intellectual ideas. Students drew names of various enlightenment philosophers, absolute monarchs, and enlightened monarchs. They were expected to not only research their assigned historical figure but to take on their persona and engage with other students as that person.
The activity required 3 days of research, and they also had to speak and engage with others as though they were that person. Students dressed up as their characters, and they were allowed to display their creativity in creating and making their own costumes. They also brought food that represented their assigned person’s home country.
Upon the completion of the activity, they did an enlightenment recap to ensure that all students took away the main ideas of each philosopher and monarch. They identified the long-term impacts that each philosopher had on the world we live in today, and it helped them see how revolutionary documents such as the Declaration of Independence, the US Constitution, the English Bill of Rights, and the French Constitution of 1791 were influenced by the philosophers.
“The activity is challenging, fun, and interactive at the same time. Students are able to make impactful connections to the enlightenment and how salons, like the one we were replicating, led to revolutions across Europe and the Americas,” said teacher Jenny Grossbohlin. “Allowing students to make real-world connections to something that happened in the past helps to make the activity relevant and impactful.”