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Teaching with Historic Places

Heritage Education Services

Teaching with Historic Places (TwHP) uses properties listed in the National Park Service's National Register of Historic Places to enliven history, social studies, geography, civics, and other subjects. TwHP has created a variety of products and activities that help teachers bring historic places into the classroom.

Preservation Month

In honor of Preservation Month, Teaching with Historic Places highlights the following complete lesson plans that feature activities that allow teachers and students to consider the role preservation plays in a community. Created by National Park Service interpreters, preservation professionals, and educators, these lessons are free and ready for immediate classroom use by students in history and social studies classes.

America's Space Program: Exploring a New Frontier (101)
Discover how NASA, private industry, and research institutions across the country cooperated to develop and implement the complex technology that enabled man to land on the moon. Also determine whether equipment such as the launch tower for Saturn V should be considered historic and therefore worthy of preservation, and identify a structure or place in your community associated with a special event and determine its historic value. (Texas, Florida, and Alabama-National Historic Landmark)

At a Crossroads: The King of Prussia Inn (119)
Learn how transportation routes affected a local inn, how archeology revealed the inn's use over time, and how preservation efforts saved the historic site from suburban sprawl. Research endangered places in your own community and brainstorm ways to help preserve them for future use. Also, investigate historic buildings in your town to determine their new uses in the community. (Pennsylvania)

Back Stairs at Brucemore: Life as Servants in early 20th-Century America (105)
Understand the "servant" experience in early 20th-century America, as well as the pros and cons for women working in factories versus domestic service. Also recognize how building usage may change over time and create a photographic display demonstrating these changes for a local historic site. (Iowa)

Bryce Canyon National Park: Hoodoos Cast Their Spell (64)
Explore the natural wonders of Bryce Canyon and learn how it became a popular tourist destination and finally a national park. Also debate whether to develop or save (to create a park) a piece of land, and research local resources (a park, historic site, monument, etc.) to find out when and how it was created or set aside for public use, how it's used today, and then develop "advertising" for it. (Utah-National Park/Includes Bryce Canyon Lodge, a National Historic Landmark)

Californio to American: A Study in Cultural Change (8)
Evaluate several centuries of dramatic changes to an adobe ranch house and its surroundings in suburban Long Beach to analyze the interaction between Spanish and Anglo culture in California. Evaluate the historical significance and integrity of the ranch to debate its inclusion on the National Registrar of Historic Places. (California)

Chicago's Black Metropolis: Understanding History through a Historic Place (53)
Examine the history of this self-supporting African-American community that prospered from the late 19th century until the 1930s. Also understand what makes a place "historic," and nominate a local historic place for a local, state, or national, register of historic places. (Illinois)

Chicago's Columbus Park: The Prairie Idealized (81)
Learn about a famous landscape artist and his efforts to promote conservation and an appreciation for native plant life. Also design a park or garden for your school or community using native plants and materials and research a historic or natural site, which is endangered, explain what threatens it, and why it is worthy of being preserved in the form of a skit/play or masque (outdoor play). (Illinois)

The Emerald Necklace: Boston's Green Connection (86)
Learn about Frederick Law Olmsted and his philosophy about parks and cities as well as city life during the Industrial Revolution. Also preserve green space by designing a park or park system in your own community with detailed design elements and submit it to the "Park Commission" for approval. (Massachusetts-Includes Arnold Arboretum, a National Historic Landmark)

Federal Courthouses and Post Offices: Symbols of Pride and Permanence in American Communities (136)
Learn how buildings restored and maintained by the U.S. General Services Administration illustrate the federal role in communities. Also research the process of nominating a building to the National Register of Historic Places, as well as ways in which buildings are designated at the state and local levels. Debate the value of documenting and officially recognizing historic places. (Colorado, Kentucky, and Oregon)

First Battle of Manassas: An End to Innocence (12)
Study personal accounts of soldiers who fought in the first battle of the Civil War, and debate whether the U.S. should maintain historic sites where few substantial remains exist. (Virginia-National Park)

Fiftieth Anniversary of the National Historic Preservation Act
Learn how the National Historic Preservation Act has affected your community in this lesson, written by Teaching with Historic Places staff and prepared for the History Channel's Make History, Save History outreach initiative.

This lesson is an updated version of one published for the 40th anniversary in 2006.

The Frankish Building: A Reflection of the Success of Ontario, California (43)
Analyze how this local landmark came to symbolize the commercial prosperity of a western town in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Also identify buildings in your community related to a town founder, and learn how to determine if community sites are of historical significance. (California)

The Freeman School: Building Prairie Communities (80)
Examine this one-room school in Nebraska and consider the important role it played in the community. Also role-play a citizens' group who just bought (or were given) 5 acres of land on which the abandoned but historic Freeman School is located and decide for their community what to do with this building. (Nebraska-National Park)

Glen Echo Park: Center for Education and Recreation (24)
Trace the evolution of this Maryland site from a chapter of the Chautauqua movement to a national park. Also create a history of a popular gathering place in your community, and locate successful examples of adaptive reuse. (Maryland-National Park)

Going-to-the-Sun Road: A Model of Landscape Engineering (95)
Learn about some of the practical problems of constructing roads in difficult terrain and about the added challenge of building in such a way as to enhance, rather than damage, fragile and beautiful places such as Glacier National Park. Also debate whether parks should restrict the number of visitors to better conserve land and preserve its resources or let visitors (who are taxpayers funding the parks) use the facilities when and how they choose. (Montana-National Park/National Historic Landmark/Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site)

Harry Truman and Independence, Missouri: "This is Where I Belong" (103)
Learn why the life of the 33rd U.S. President serves as an example of civic duty and explore the town that helped form his character. Also understand why Truman felt strongly about preserving history in states, towns, and neighborhoods, and identify and research historic places in your own neighborhood. (Missouri-National Park/Includes Harry S Truman Historic District, a National Historic Landmark)

Independence Hall: International Symbol of Freedom (132)
Learn about Independence Hall and how the international influence of the Declaration of Independence and Constitution led to its designation as a World Heritage Site. Have students discuss the criteria for World Heritage Sites and debate the importance of designating and protecting resources of “outstanding universal value.” Also research government buildings in your own community to locate those listed on the National Register of Historic Places and determine if the documentation is thorough and up to date.(Pennsylvania-National Park/UNESCO World Heritage Site)

Johnson Lake Mine: Mining for Tungsten in Nevada’s Snake Range (110)
Explore both mining at the turn of the 20th century and how archeologists piece together the past using artifacts and other archeological evidence. Debate the pros and cons of restricting access to archeological sites to protect them versus expanding public access for the purpose of education and increasing public support for these sites. (Nevada-National Park)

Log Cabins in America: The Finnish Experience (4)
Consider how simple, functional cabins, like those built by the Finns in Idaho, became symbols in American politics and folklore. Also understand why it was important to list them on the National Register of Historic Places. (Idaho)

Mammoth Cave: Its Explorers, Miners, Archeologists, and Visitors (35)
Tour the world's longest cave, a geological wonder, and assess the ways it has been used and preserved as a historic resource. Also identify a site in your community, one that ought to be preserved, but is not yet protected, and devise a conservation plan for that site. (Kentucky-National Park/UNESCO World Heritage Site)

Mechanics Hall: Symbol of Pride and Industry (87)
Examine how the advent of industrialization in 19th-century America impacted the workforce in New England's Blackstone River Valley. Also compile a list of historic structures in your community, research their history, and volunteer as a docent at one of the sites. (Massachusetts-Mechanics Hall is included in the Blackstone River Valley National Heritage Corridor)

Mount Auburn Cemetery: A New American Landscape (84)
Explore the country's first large-scale designed landscape open to the public that spawned the development of other rural cemeteries, public parks, and designed suburbs. Visit a local landscape, either a cemetery or park, to perform a clean up or preservation project at the site. (Massachusetts)  

A Nation Repays Its Debt: The National Soldiers' Home and Cemetery in Dayton, Ohio (115)
Explore the evolving system of honor and care for United States veterans in National Cemeteries. In your own community, locate and visit war memorials in order to identify the changing processes of memorialization. If the memorials students identify necessitate conservation, have them draft letters to the city or local historical society for help preserving the memorials. (Ohio-National Historic Landmark)

The Old Court House in St. Louis: Yesterday and Today (9)
Compare historic events that took place at St. Louis's handsome Courthouse. Also identify older public buildings in your community and research their purposes and usage over time, and learn how preservationists determine what should and should not be preserved. (Missouri-National Park)

Paterson, New Jersey: America's Silk City (102)
Learn about the causes and effects of a famous silk industry strike and how it affected those who were involved. In groups, research your community to determine important industries in history. Identify the remaining buildings that were associated with early industries, what effect they had on the community, and how they are being used today. (New Jersey-The Pietro Botto House is a National Historic Landmark. Paterson Great Falls National Historic Park is a National Park)

The Penniman House: A Whaling Story (112)
Learn about 19th century whaling and the whaling industry’s impact on an ordinary family in southeastern Massachusetts and identify what industries or businesses were important to the development of your area. Work in teams to locate homes of leaders in that industry or of other local leaders, research their importance and what their homes reveal about them, and work with other teams to create a local history display. (Massachusetts-National Park)

Roadside Attractions (6)
Follow the highways of the 1920s and 1930s, exploring the whimsical, extravagant architecture that came with American auto culture. Also investigate the ways in which automobiles changed your community, and find an example of fanciful, vernacular architecture and research what is being done to preserve it. (Kentucky, Minnesota, New York, North Carolina, South Dakota, and Washington)

"The Rocket's Red Glare": Francis Scott Key and the Bombardment of Fort McHenry (137)
Learn how the British bombardment of Fort McHenry in Baltimore led to the writing of “The Star-Spangled Banner” and how Key’s song became a powerful symbol for Americans.  Search out places that help create your community’s identity and create a walking tour to help visitors and newcomers understand what makes your town special. (Maryland-National Park) Learn how a classroom teacher uses this lesson.

Run For Your Lives! The Johnstown Flood of 1889 (5)
Determine how environmental management, technology, and the actions of 19th-century industrialists contributed to a disaster in Pennsylvania that shocked the nation. Also understand why a community spent funds to restore a railway built to save lives. (Pennsylvania-National Park)

Savannah, Georgia: The Lasting Legacy of Colonial City Planning (83)
Learn about James Oglethorpe and his enduring city plan from the colonial era. Also debate whether your town's historic area could be nominated to the National Register of Historic Places. (Georgia-National Historic Landmark)

The Shields-Ethridge Farm: The End of a Way of Life (145)
Investigate sharecropping as a way of life in upland Georgia during the early 20th century and examine the efforts of one farm owner to diversify as market fluctuation and urbanization threatened that life.

The Siege and Battle of Corinth: A New Kind of War (113)
Understand how newly developed transportation technologies affected two military engagements and one tiny town in Mississippi during the Civil War. Investigate the history of transportation in your community, the relationship of local routes--road, rail, water, and air--with larger trransportation systems, and changes over time. Identify existing places associated with the history of transportation and whether they are still used for the same purpose. Create an exhibit for display in the school or community. (Mississippi-National Park/National Historic Landmark)

Skagway: Gateway to the Klondike (75)
Join the stampede for gold when over 100,000 prospectors set out for the Klondike, and develop a promotional brochure or walking tour from histories of buildings that illustrate your community's development. (Alaska-National Park/National Historic Landmark)

Springwood: Birthplace and Home to Franklin D. Roosevelt (82)
Understand how Springwood was the keystone in Franklin Delano Roosevelt's public as well as private life by playing host to some very dramatic events in American history. Also research a local WPA project in your local community. (New York-National Park)

Theodore Roosevelt Inaugural Site: Birthplace of the Modern Presidency (77)
Examine how Theodore Roosevelt became President of the United States and how he modernized the presidency. Also make a time line with information about a historic structure in your area at various times in its history, including important events that occurred in the United States during that same time. Donate the completed project to the local historical society so others may benefit from your research. (New York-National Park)

Two American Entrepreneurs: Madam C.J. Walker and J.C. Penney
Examine the historic places associated with two of America's most famous 20th century business people. Also research successful local businesses in your community, and understand the importance of preserving buildings as part of a community's history. (Indiana and Wyoming-National Historic Landmarks)

Waterford, Virginia: From Mill Town to National Historic Landmark (88)
Examine continuity and change over time in this rural Virginia town from its founding to today. Compare the time periods to identify the historic elements remaining in the town and begin a discussion about the town’s efforts with historic preservation. Also, research and write a history of your town or neighborhood distinguishing historic buildings and their current use within the community. (Virginia-National Historic Landmark)

  To learn more about TwHP's other lessons, visit the Lesson Plan Descriptions page.