An 11-year-old boy, Hunter Scott, learns about the USS Indianapolis while watching the movie Jaws with his father. Hunter was inspired and began researching the story of the USS Indianapolis for his history fair project. The preface of this book provides an excellent back story about how the curiosity and tenacity of an 11-year-old boy leads to uncovering details about the WWII naval disaster and the wrongful court martial of the ship's captain.
This book shares the history of the USS Indianapolis in an engaging way.
I use a portion of this book as a read aloud in my 7th grade science class. The reading begins with a book talk. I explain the back-story and a little bit of history about the USS Indianapolis. I share with my students a background summary of WWII including Pearl Harbor and the nuclear weapons program. Nelson provides a well-written and well-documented history in the first six chapters.
The selection I read begins on page 74. Chapter Seven is called The Ordeal July 30 to August 3, 1945. Pete Nelson describes what happens to the men after the ship sank, while they were in the water waiting to be rescued. He describes what happens to the men at the cellular level as they become dehydrated. They have nothing to eat or drink and they are afloat near the equator for 5 days. I read through page 82. This section directly supports the science standards noted below. On page 96, I also read a short section about the rescue. I always tear up when I read aloud the rescue of Harlan Twible. Some of my students do too.
The students are attentive listeners. Most of them know someone who is serving our country. The students are in awe of the men and their story. Several students head to the school library after class to check out the book. Fortunately we have several copies.
This book provides a great example of how science and social studies can share the same resource and topic.
Students will also be inspired by the research of an 11-year-old boy. Hunter does not stop when the history fair is over. At the age of 14, his research leads him to testify before the Senate Armed Services Committee about the wrongful court-martial of Captain McVay. McVay is exonerated. One student can indeed have an impact on history.
Indiana State Science Standard
7.3.2 Understand that water is a major component within all cells and is required to carry out many cellular functions.
Next Generation Science Standards
MS-LS1-2.Develop and use a model to describe the function of a cell as a whole and ways parts of cells contribute to the function.
Lesson Plan and Student Documents
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