Service Learning with Places

Students and their communities both benefit from the combination of classroom instruction, experiential learning, civic engagement, and reflection that service learning provides. To promote the benefits of service learning, Teaching with Historic Places (TwHP) makes the following information available.

Service Learning Activities in TwHP Lesson Plans

Teaching with Historic Places (TwHP) offers more than 160 classroom-ready lesson plans on places throughout the country and topics across the curriculum. Many lessons on this website include service-learning activities that enrich and reinforce student learning and promote civic responsibility. These are complete, self-contained lesson plans on a variety of places and topics; however, the service learning exercises easily may be adapted to other places and subject matters. To find the service learning activity in each of the following lessons, click on “Putting It All Together” in the lesson’s index and look for the activity’s name as cited below under the lesson titles.

The Impact of Historic Preservation in Your Community

Written originally to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966 in conjunction with The History Channel’s Save Our History initiative, and updated in 2015 as part of the celebration of the Act's 50th anniversary with History's Make History, Save History initiative, this lesson plan on community preservation engages students with the history all around them. The lesson emphasizes the interconnectedness among local history and identity, historic preservation, community involvement, and service learning. By discovering, investigating, and working with local properties listed in the National Register of Historic Places, students can experience a tangible piece of their shared history and contribute to the well-being of their communities.

Youth Summits

Youth Summits introduce young people to historic preservation issues and opportunities in their communities, encouraging future generations to care about and for their heritage. Summits bring teens and experts in preservation and history together to learn from each other. This website offers a thorough How-To Guide for people and institutions interested in organizing their own Youth Summit event, resources for planning the summit, and sample agendas used at successful summits in the past.

Case Studies in Service Learning

Of the Student, By the Student, For the Student, sponsored by the Journey Through Hallowed Ground (JTHG) Partnership, connects students to the history and heritage within their own backyards. Students become movie makers, receiving professional guidance in screenwriting, editing, photography, set design, and videography to produce mini documentaries offering their interpretation of American history. The pilot initiative of the program took place with Harpers Ferry Middle School students in conjunction with Harpers Ferry National Historical Park. Now, the program has spread to surrounding schools and historic places within the Journey Through Hallowed Ground Heritage Area. For example, Thomas Jefferson's Monticello and Manassas National Battlefield Park have partnered with local schools to develop Of the Student, By the Student, For the Studentprojects.

A Forest for Every Classroom (FFEC) is a professional development series inspired by a vision of students learning from and caring for public lands. Sponsored by Marsh Billings-Rockefeller National Historic Park, the NPS Conservation Studies Institute, and other partners, FFEC gives educators the knowledge and skills to develop curriculum that fosters students' active participation in the conservation of public lands. The FFEC teaching strategy cultivates involved students who understand and appreciate the natural and cultural resources in their communities.

A Trail to Every Classroom (TTEC), modeled after A Forest for Every Classroom, is a multi-disciplinary professional development series for educators. Sponsored by the Appalachian National Scenic Trail and partners, TTEC provides educators with the inspiration and knowledge to incorporate place-based teaching in their classrooms and foster students' understanding and appreciation of the resources related to the Appalachian Trail. The TTEC teaching strategy cultivates engaged and involved students in the conservation of their communities and other public lands, while also maintaining volunteer management of the Appalachian Trail.

A series of Colorado Youth Summits (also on Facebook) ---supported by the U.S. Departments of the Interior and Agriculture, Colorado Preservation, Inc., the Colorado Historical Society, and other partners---received the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation Award for Federal Preserve America Accomplishment in 2010. The Youth Summits provide scholarships for Colorado students in 7th through 12th grades to participate in hands-on historic preservation activities throughout the state. Among other projects, students consulted with Colorado's First Family on interpretive programs for the Governor's Residence, worked on the Nature Conservancy's historic Zapata Ranch in the Sangre de Christo Heritage Area, and testified at the Colorado General Assembly's House Education Committee.

Frederick Law Olmsted National Historic Site collaborated with local public school teachers, prominent Olmsted scholars, and landscape architects to create the “Good Neighbors: Landscape design and Community Building” educational program. This innovative, curriculum-based, program engages third grade students to learn about thoughtfully designed parks and how those parks strengthen communities. The Good Neighbors program begins with National Park Service educators visiting students in the classroom, followed by students visiting the Frederick Law Olmsted NHS. In 2011, the Olmsted NHS received the Boston Society of Landscape Architects (BSLA) "Award of Excellence" for representing an outstanding contribution to the profession of landscape architecture.

Historic Preservation as Service Learning

The National Service-Learning Clearinghouse website provides a wealth of information on service learning and historic preservation. This site defines service learning, explains how “authentic experiences with heritage resources” help instill a sense of the immediacy and relevance of the past, suggests possible types of historic preservation projects and gives real-life examples, emphasizes the benefits of these projects to both students and their communities, and lists additional useful resources.

Some Ideas to Get You Started

Service learning activities are beneficial to everyone involved. Not only will students engage in experiential learning, but, teachers will find their students excited and intrigued; students will develop a sense of independence, usefulness, and confidence; and local communities will benefit from the extra help and support. Use this list of general types of activities to inspire projects that combine service learning and historic preservation.

Last updated: October 4, 2017


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