Written by Doug StanWiens
It all started just over a year ago when I walked into the offices of the National Trust for Historic Preservation in Washington, DC and asked the young woman at the front desk if anyone might be interested in hearing about a fun little project out in Boise. Since then, the students of the Boise Architecture Project (BAP) have had the distinct privilege of blogging here every week. Now, with our community's historic geothermal-fed pool opening up and school coming to an end, it is time to reflect on what an amazing experience this has been – both for myself and for my students.
The blog project has been challenging, fun, informative...and just plain exciting. Our students have continually enjoyed seeing their work “out there” for folks to read and comment on. It is really the ethic of being connected that does it for these young people; do something cool, share it with others. Many of them never considered architecture or preservation “cool” before this year, but the blog crew has taken to comparing their work, eagerly showing each other their posts when they go online and connecting to the BAP through their favorite online medium – Facebook. Of course, Mr. StanWiens “likes" this! In fact, it has been such a valuable experience that we will continue blogging next school year on our own website.
It has also been fun for the students to read the messages we have received from so many of you about our project. Graduate students in preservation have contacted us about including us in their theses. Other bloggers have given us shout-outs, while suggestions and feedback have come in from around the nation. All in all, this is a nice affirmation that what is going on here Boise is worthwhile and interesting. It also proves to me that lots of folks share my view that students learning about local history and preservation through a digital medium ends up being a great thing for the local community.
This year, my students have immersed themselves in local preservation more than any other year. I will never forget the wide-eyed look from several of them after a particularly heated announcement by one local at a meeting that he was going to work to “vote ‘em all out of office” after a discussion about historic schools. One student who has already graduated is currently working on putting together an architecture walk for Preservation Idaho, while several who are on the BAP Student Advisory Board are already gearing up for next year's BAP events. And certainly, the endangered list we put together for Boise helped create an extremely important interaction with our community that illustrated to the students what can be done with some time, interest, and momentum.
Finally, we ended the school year with our best spring buildings project yet. Fifty new buildings were added to our website, including submissions from the community, another high school, and a local elementary school class. “This is my building” students said with pride when they presented their projects in class. There is really some great stuff at boisearchitecture.org. Please be sure to check out some of the many compelling stories we have in Boise – stories my students have helped preserve forever.
There are a lot of problems in education today, but from my experience, students move right past them in a genuine desire to learn something fun and important. A good idea can go a long way, and I want to thank the National Trust for giving our idea – the Boise Architecture Project – a chance to be shared with so many others. BAP students want to see the project grow to other schools, and this blog was a great first step. Perhaps students in your area are looking for ways to become more involved in preservation, local history, and cool buildings. Show them our blog and ask them – I bet they'll be on board.
Thanks so much for reading. Over and out from Boise.
Doug StanWiens teaches U.S. history at Boise’s Timberline High School and spearheads the Boise Architecture Project. Throughout this school year, his class of juniors and seniors have blogged about what they are doing in class and in the field to learn more about their community and its history. Check out their work here on the PreservationNation blog and on their Flickr photostream.
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.