Dear WESS Historians and Families,

We are very proud of the work your students accomplished throughout the "Me to We" expedition, truly taking on the role of Historians. During this last expedition students learned about the different types of historical scientists, becoming archaeologists, anthropologists, geographers and historians. They used their new jobs to uncover the Paleolithic era, the Neolithic era, and the 5 Themes of Geography. As we move into our new expedition of “Down the Drain” we will be exploring the river valley civilizations of Mesopotamia and Egypt, connecting back to “Down the Drain” through that theme of rivers. Students will learn the criteria that make up a complex civilization like laws/government, written language, and social structures, and how rivers were the lifeblood of these civilizations. Already, the students are asking excellent questions and making these connections, such as “If rivers were once the center of civilizations and their reason for living, how did they become these polluted places where we dump our waste?”

During this expedition we will conduct two case studies, the first being one of the first systems of written laws and government, the Code of Hammurabi. Students are analyzing complex primary source texts to gain a deeper understanding of the laws. They will then be putting on their lawyer hats and learning how to apply these laws using claims and evidence. This case study will culminate on December 23rd.

The Common Core State Standards that we will be covering during this case study are as follows:

6.3 EARLY RIVER VALLEY CIVILIZATIONS IN THE EASTERN HEMISPHERE: Between 3500 B.C.E. and 600 B.C.E., complex societies and civilizations developed in the Eastern Hemisphere. Although these complex societies and civilizations have certain defining characteristics in common, each is also known for unique cultural achievements and contributions. Early human communities in the Eastern Hemisphere adapted to and modified the physical environment. (Standards: 2, 3; Themes: ID, TCC, GEO, SOC)


Present claims and findings, sequencing ideas
 logically and using pertinent descriptions, facts, and details to accentuate
 main ideas or themes; use appropriate eye contact, adequate volume, and clear


Write arguments to support claims with clear
 reasons and relevant evidence.


Introduce claim(s) and organize the reasons
 and evidence clearly.


Support claim(s) with clear reasons and
 relevant evidence, using credible sources and demonstrating an understanding
 of the topic or text.


Use words, phrases, and clauses to clarify
 the relationships among claim(s) and reasons.


Establish and maintain a formal style.


Provide a concluding statement or section
 that follows from the argument presented.

In addition to the work we will be doing in class, students will be conducting field work at the American Museum of Natural History. During our time at the museum students will be analyzing the artifacts and art related to Mesopotamia and other river civilizations. It is important that we use New York City as our learning lab, providing students with a valuable experience while conducting these field experiences.  

Also, please look for our Twitter account @WESShistorians where we will be posting news article related to ancient history. This is not required, however, it is a place for students to read current events related to the content.

We look forward to a wonderful expedition that will not only challenge your student but engage them in a meaningful learning experience.


Ellyn and Michele

A little about us:

Ellyn Peschitz

Ellyn began her teaching career in Fort Lauderdale, Florida after graduating from Florida Atlantic University with a Bachelor's Degree in Communications. She taught sixth grade World History for five years and seventh grade Civics for one. During this time, she received her Master's Degree in Educational Leadership from the American College of Education. In addition to teaching, Ellyn worked to educate other teachers through professional development, designed and developed school-wide curriculum, and sponsored an award-winning chapter of National Junior Honor Society. After growing up in South Florida, she followed her lifelong dream to live in New York City. With her love of exploring, being outdoors, and history, she is extremely excited to start this journey at WESS!

Michele Balsam

Michele has roots deep in New York City education; born and raised in lower Manhattan, she grew up with a passion for the city and its history, nurtured by her experiences in both progressive and traditional education. Michele received her Bachelor's degree from The George Washington University in both History and Political science, and a Master’s degree from Hunter College in Adolescent Social Studies Education.  From there, Michele went on to teach in New York City schools, returning to teach summer camp at her middle school alma mater, until her path brought her to WESS. Throughout her educational career, Michele has studied abroad in Madrid and London, as well as traveled the world with her choir from the cape of South Africa to the beaches of Rio de Janeiro.  Michele loves bringing the exhilaration of world travel to the classroom through inquiry and authentic experiences, and is doubly excited to bring that passion to WESS.