Instead of simply learning about the past through traditional textbook-based methods, Danvers High School social studies teacher, Wendy Waldron, is asking her students to use local museums’ collections as they make inferences about our regional and national history. Practicing social science skills, the students analyze artifacts such as maps, homewares, and work-related artifacts from the Rebecca Nurse Homestead in Danvers and objects from the Concord Museum to explore what life was like in colonial New England and the Revolutionary War period. They are “giving back” to the museums by helping these sites design activities that engage high school students and by advocating for more interaction between schools and local museums. In the process, they are taking ownership of their own learning as they physically connect with the past.
Ms. Waldron is part of the Park for Every Classroom program, offered jointly by Essex Heritage and the National Park Service, a professional development program that encourages teachers to create opportunities for students to learn from and serve their communities. Ms. Waldron noted, "It has been refreshing to change the routine and use kinesthetic learning to prove the relevancy of what we study. History is so much more than names, dates, and old documents. Working with the museums has been a wonderful opportunity to make history come alive for my students as well as connect them with their town's place in broader American history."