Teaching with Historic Places

Boston Beacon hill
Beacon Hill Historic District, Boston, Massachusetts

Who We Are and What We Do

Teaching with Historic Places (TwHP) is a series of lesson plans and place-based learning resources produced by the National Park Service.

Over the years TwHP has developed a variety of products and services. These include a series of lesson plans; guidance on using places to teach; information encouraging educators, historians, preservationists, site interpreters, and others to work together effectively; and professional development publications and training courses.

Initially created in collaboration with the National Trust for Historic Preservation, TwHP grew out of a desire by both organizations to expand educational outreach. Coinciding with a widespread review of American education in the late 1980s, this interest led to consultation with a wide range of educators, resulting in the launch of the Teaching with Historic Places program in 1991.

Teaching with Historic Places is managed by the CR Office of Interpretation and Education, part of Tribal Relations and American Cultures in the Cultural Resources, Partnerships, and Science Directorate of the National Park Service. It is based in Washington, DC.

Recognition and Honors

The soundness of the TwHP approach and the excellence of its materials have been recognized with awards from the American Association for State and Local History, the National Park Foundation, and the National Endowment for the Arts. TwHP lesson plans have been featured in the National Council for the Social Studies' professional journal, Social Education, the Organization of American Historians'Magazine of History, National History Day's theme supplements, and the Department of Education's web site, Federal Resources for Educational Excellence (FREE). They have been recommended by the Department of Education's Educational Resources Information Center (ERIC), Clearinghouse for Social Studies/Social Science Education. Comments from participants in the program also have been positive. We welcome your comments, suggestions, or questions.

Partnerships and Collaborations

Partnerships and close collaboration with teachers, historians, preservationists, National Park Service staff, curriculum specialists, and others have made TwHP successful. The program has received generous in-kind and monetary support from a number of programs and organizations. The National Park Service's Parks as Classrooms program, Cultural Resources Training Initiative, American Battlefield Protection Program, and Mather Center--along with the National Trust for Historic Preservation and the National Conference of State Historic Preservation Officers--made possible many workshops and most of the lesson plans. The National Trust also published and distributed the first 54 lesson plans, later marketed by Jackdaw Publications, which also published several additional lessons. The prototype lesson plan format and first seven model lessons were created by historian, former classroom teacher, and past executive director for the National Commission on Social Studies in the Schools, Fay Metcalf. Later lessons have been written by national and state park interpreters, teachers, professors, and preservationists.

The National Park Foundation secured funding from Target Stores, Eureka, and Discovery Channel to publish the kit Explore Your National Parks: Historic Places, which was distributed to 34,000 teachers nationwide. The National Council for the Social Studies (NCSS) and the Organization of American Historians have reprinted lesson plans in their journals, allowing us to reach thousands of teachers who might otherwise not be introduced to the program. The Department of Education promotes TwHP through its Federal Resources for Educational Excellence (FREE) Web site. National History Day has included information about TwHP in mailings to teachers across the country. The National Trust published the professional development publications A Technical Assistance Sourcebook andA Curriculum Framework, the latter largely supported with a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts. The History Channel collaborated on a teacher workshop and the distribution of a lesson plan in honor of the 40th anniversary of the National Historic Preservation Act.

The National Park Service's National Center for Preservation Technology and Training (NCPTT) provided an evaluation and planning grant at a critical juncture in TwHP's development. This grant funded two planning meetings, a focus group of teachers, and early implementation of recommendations for revising the lesson plan format to make it more user-friendly. NCPTT also cosponsored a meeting of educators and public historians to discuss ways in which TwHP could reach out to college and university schools of education more effectively.

Individuals from the National Archives, Smithsonian Institution, National Trust, NCSS, NPS regional and support offices, national parks, historical societies, universities, and numerous schools and school districts across the country have been more than generous in their advice and counsel, have offered constructive feedback, and have helped promote the TwHP program.

Last updated: February 16, 2016

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