Getting out of the classroom and learning about history in other places is invaluable to your overall understanding of whatever period you are studying. I still remember vividly my visits to Fort Sumter, Colonial Williamsburg, Monticello, Shiloh, Vicksburg, and Gettysburg as a kid back East, as well as numerous tours of the fantastic Smithsonian museums in Washington, D.C. Whether you go with your family or with your class, field trips are a great addition to your historical education.
In April of 2000, some colleagues and I led a group of 10 adults and 20 students on an educational tour of Ireland. When I taught 7th grade world history in Bakersfield, we took a large group of students to the Museum of Tolerance in Los Angeles, and for many years I was part of a high school Digital Arts and Humanities program that included an annual visit to the Japanese American National Museum. All of these experiences provided real time exposure to people, places, and things that reinforced what my students were learning in class.
Start with places near you. Local museums and historical sites are within easy access and can help you make sense of past people and events. Ask your parents or guardians if they would be willing to take you places on your school breaks (after you catch up on rest and assignments, of course). Look up the places that interest you and plan your visits in conjunction with what you are studying in class.
The National Park Service has a great website and includes many preserved important sites from American history. The California State Park system maintains several outstanding attractions as well. Many historical sites have rangers, docents, and tour guides who are extremely knowledgeable and will answer any questions you may have (and some you haven’t thought of yet).
Some even dress in historical costume and portray a character in first person. This is especially true at period homes, battlefields, and military installations. For many years I participated in battle and camp reenactments as a Harper’s Weekly correspondent at Fort Tejon State Historic Park off Interstate 5 in Grapevine Canyon near Lebec, California. Those experiences were as rewarding for me as a presenter as they were for my audiences. I offered extra credit to my students at the time if they attended and wrote a review of what they saw and learned. I also presented at other living history events around the state and in a restored 19th century town in Pennsylvania.
Local government buildings, military bases, and restored homes of prominent citizens in your community are all great resources. Many international tour companies offer packages for school groups traveling abroad. Take advantage of field trip opportunities at your school and guest historians who may be speaking at local venues. Don’t forget to bring your phone to capitalize on the unique photo ops.
Get out there. An entire new world of historical adventure awaits you.
Copyright (c) 2018 Torin Finney. All rights reserved.
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