Written by Doug StanWiens
Like many of you I’m sure, I followed Paul LaRue and his students at Washington High School as they blogged their way through a restoration of a cemetery in their hometown last spring. As a high school history teacher, I was impressed by the richness of the experience (and I only saw it online!) and inspired my Mr. LaRue’s enthusiasm and creativity.
You can only imagine then how excited I am to announce that my students are taking the reins for Teaching Preservation 2.0.
Greetings from historic Boise, Idaho! My name is Doug StanWiens, and I teach history and economics at Timberline High School. In 2006, we started what has grown into the Boise Architecture Project (BAP) – a hands-on approach to studying architecture and appreciating history that was inspired by the countless gems in our community. From Art Deco and Egyptian Revival downtown buildings, to Mission style and Internationalist private homes, Boise has it all!
Over the years, students from my AP U.S. history classes, Timberline’s photography courses, and nearby Capital High School’s AP geography classes have fanned out across town, exploring buildings, researching their historical and architectural backgrounds, and most importantly, taking pictures of their fascinating characteristics.
And this semester, we’re bringing it all to you on PreservationNation!
The project was inspired by two people: Professor Robert "Bungalow Bob" Winter, who taught a course on the architecture of Los Angeles at Occidental College in 1989 (we'll never forget those arches!), and Gary Thomsen, a sports marketing teacher at Chief Sealth High School in Seattle, who provided the inspiration for student neighborhood projects and local history research. Semester after semester, our goals are to learn about local history, understand and appreciate different architectural styles and their connection to history, and contribute research to the community of Boise.
Though they sometimes start off feeling lukewarm about the project, my students over the years have been transformed in their understanding of our city. When they are done, they see their world differently. They look up at the sides of buildings while walking downtown. They try to find a favorite house on a new street. They throw "Fallingwater" around in casual conversation.
In the words of one BAP alum:
“The Boise Architecture Project opened up an entire new world for me. I learned that houses aren’t just for living in; a gigantic concrete box would serve that purpose. No, architecture is artistic expression fused with functionality (you can’t live in a painting…). I also realized that houses tell stories. Now that houses are mass produced, one can’t help but feel a sense of loss for the sheer functionality of it all. What will people think when they look back at my house, for example?”
I know this year will bring much more of the same.
Join us here for weekly blog posts from the students themselves, and catch us on Flickr for photos from inside and outside the classroom. We’ll cover not only our work in the field, but also what we do in class to learn about history, architecture, and preservation. And, if you want a behind-the-scenes look from the perspective of a teacher, follow me on Twitter.
The students are back from summer and we’re excited to show you – week after week – why Boise is a place that matters.
Doug StanWiens teaches U.S. history at Boise's Timberline High School and spearheads the Boise Architecture Project. Throughout the semester, his class of juniors and seniors will be blogging about what they are doing in class and in the field to learn more about their community and its history. You can follow the students here on the PreservationNation blog and on their Flickr photostream. Also, get daily updates from the teacher himself on Twitter.
Are you an educator interested in teaching preservation in your classroom? Visit PreservationNation.org for resources, tips, and ideas to enhance your curriculum with lessons that will teach your students to recognize and appreciate the rich history that surrounds them.
The National Trust for Historic Preservation works to save America's historic places. Join us today to help protect the places that matter to you.