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History is All Around Us

one room schoolhouse
Question 

I am the Director of Social Studies in a town in Massachusetts that has not had an elementary SS program for years. (Yikes!) We are about to do a major overhaul to this practice. And, as a kickoff event I have offered to do a workshop for teachers of grades 3-5 entitled: History is all around us. I was thinking of working with teachers to research the history of their small community (i.e. their school). Do you know of any others who have done similar projects? The point of such a project is to have teachers view their school with a different pair of eyes and to see that with history, there are always teachable moments.

Answer 

Great idea! While we don’t know of any similar web-based projects, there are some easily accessible resources that can help you with planning and structuring student investigations into their own school’s history. Consider the ideas on the PBS website, Get Involved: Discover Your School History.

This Irish site, Ask About Ireland includes additional ideas for potential sources that students could locate and consult. One approach might be to first engage students and the community in building a school archive and this article Establishing a School Archives from The National Archives will be helpful in getting that going.

Teachers have reported on their classroom experiences with school history projects in journals published by the National Council for the Social Studies. See the September 2009 issue of Social Education for an article written by high school teacher John J. DeRose, or the January 2009 issue of Middle Level Learning for articles written by middle school teachers Amy Trenkle and Candyce Sweda. With an NCSS membership, you can access these online or check a local library to see if they subscribe to these journals.

Some of the activities and resources important to doing local history with students or collecting oral histories are likely relevant and you may want to scan this NHEC blog on third-graders investigating local history, this one about working with middle-schoolers, and this one about how to get elementary students started with local history. Also see this entry about an adult collaboration to recapture a local school’s history.

We hope these are helpful—and good luck!

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