At a Glance


Teachers, teacher educators, and National Park Service staff talk about the importance of teaching with historic places. They model teaching strategies for helping students think critically about and learn from local and national resources.

Teaching with Historic Places

Teaching with Historic Places, part 1 Teaching with Historic Places, part 2 Teaching with Historic Places, part 3 Teaching with Historic Places, part 4

Video Transcription

  • Teaching with Historic Places, part 1
  • Teaching with Historic Places, part 2
  • Teaching with Historic Places, part 3
  • Teaching with Historic Places, part 4

  • 1:00
  • 3:20
  • 1:07
  • 1:29
  • Kathleen A. Hunter: One of the joys of visiting a historic site is the love and passion interpreters, and site administrators and researchers bring to their place. Teachers are not as in love with the place as they are in love with the minds of their students. They are absolutely focused on "how can I open this child's mind?"

    James A. Percoco: The value of using historic places to teach history even though you're not there at the site is that they help to bring history alive in a very, very specific and unique context.

    Charles S. White: We want children to be active in their learning; we want them to construct their knowledge of history. And one way to do that is to get them to do history the way historians do history, the way we try to have kids do science in the classroom, the way scientists do. And teaching with place allows us to do that.

  • Narrator: Jim Percoco, a history teacher at West Springfield High School in Northern Virginia, is a great believer in using primary materials, including historic places, to teach the lessons of history.

    James A. Percoco, in classroom: The reason that we're going to Andersonville is I want to make this the ultimate kind of applied history experience—

    James A. Percoco: Teaching with Historic Places is I think a wonderful model to teach. It helps teachers to reach some of the goals and standards established by the National Standards for the Teaching of History. And it does so because it allows students to develop thinking skills, reasoning skills, historical thinking skills, interpretation, the kinds of skills that they're going to need to think through things in their future.

    James A. Percoco, in classroom: Some of the men who were incarcerated at Andersonville—

    Narrator: Jim uses primary source materials, including those from the Teaching with Historic Places lesson plan, to encourage his students to consider not only how Andersonville fits into the larger context of the Civil War but also what the experience means at a personal level.

    James A. Percoco, in classroom: —prisoners at Andersonville.

    Student, in classroom: Um, let me just . . . He looks like he's about the same age as me.

    Narrator: Students explore materials that make Civil War history come alive for them. The lesson plan also provides a context in which to further explore this material outside the classroom.

    James A. Percoco, at Andersonville: All that was down in there, and it was all marshy, it all got marshy—

    Narrator: In this case Jim used the Andersonville lesson both in preparation for a visit to Andersonville National Historic Site, a Civil War prison and a prisoner of war memorial, and also to reinforce what was learned on the site.

    James A. Percoco: History takes place out there; it takes place in the world, it doesn't take place inside a classroom or a school building.

    Narrator: At the site, students are greeted by Alan Marsh, a park service ranger who wrote the Andersonville: Teaching with Historic Places lesson plan.

    Alan Marsh: The Teaching of Historic Places program really was a primary force in bringing everything together. The program is set up so that an individual who is creating a lesson plan either goes to a training course or works very closely with these individuals. And they provide the format of how to bring it all together, how to write the plans, how to bring in text, graphics, etcetera into a final product, and as a result of the guidelines and their help you come out with a, what I feel like, is a very good, very useful product for educators and their classes.

    Narrator: Students tour the actual site of the Andersonville prison camp and view reenactments of the first soldiers to arrive at the prison. They explore a nearby graveyard where one student found confirmation of a surprising discovery.

    Student, at Andersonville: I recently found out that my great-great-great-grandfather was buried here at Andersonville, and I just found it out through the—Mr. Percoco's history class.

    Narrator: Back in the classroom, Jim Percoco once again uses the lesson plan to help reinforce the ideas he hopes students have taken away from the site visit.

    James A. Percoco, in classroom: —in the pension records to find out if these men in fact did survive or if they—

    Student, at Andersonville: But a lot of people really realize how big of a tragedy this was.

    Student, at Andersonville: I saw the headstones, and I saw the land, and that's when I realized that this was real, it's not just something in a history book.

    Narrator: For both Jim and his students the Teaching with Historic Places lesson plan proves an invaluable tool for framing the learning experience.

  • Narrator: Professor Charles White trains students embarking on careers in education. He teaches a methods course in history in the most effective way he knows how: by taking his student teachers on a tour of downtown Boston, Massachusetts and asking them the questions he hopes they, in turn, will one day ask their students.

    Charles S. White: There really are two strengths to the Teaching with Historic Places program for a methods course. One is, it's very clear from national tests that students are deficient in history. And so the more we can help future teachers teach history better, all the better for our children. Another way to teach history dynamically is to use primary sources and the Teaching with Historic Places program provides primary sources in the form of the built environment: houses, buildings, streets, landscapes, all of which can be used to help us bring history to kids and bring kids to history.

  • Narrator: Diana Perkins teaches 7th grade at the Lincoln Middle School in Washington, DC. Her class is studying the history of the city, and Ms. Perkins is searching for a way to make the subject come alive for students from diverse ethnic and cultural backgrounds.

    Diana Perkins: Any time that I go on a field trip I like to have the students prepare for what they're going to be seeing and how it is related to their everyday lives and lessons that we learn in school.

    Narrator: Ms. Perkins arranges for a class visit to the National Register-listed Heurich Mansion, one of the last surviving Gilded Age mansions in the city. In the classroom students view pictures of the mansion and read about life in late 1800s America. This helps prepare them for an actual house tour and what they learn there.

    Ann Eigemann, in Heurich Mansion: So this room the family used as the dining room—

    Ann Eigemann: Looking carefully at different parts of the house and learning about the time period will help students and teachers to become more interested in learning about buildings in their school community and their own neighborhood and how they may relate to this building’s history.

    Diana Perkins, in classroom: What part of the house interested you most and why?

    Narrator: Back in the classroom Diana Perkins prompts further discussion about the visit to the Heurich Mansion.

    Student, in classroom: The way the statue was with the little boy—

    Narrator: Stimulated by the experience, students find they can relate distant history to their own lives.