Teaching Preservation: Lessons from the Field

Posted on: April 24th, 2009 by Guest Writer
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Notes from the Teacher's Desk

Greetings, PreservationNation!

It’s been a few weeks since my last update (the move to our new digs has, of course, been fraught with technical difficulties), and man oh man do I have some exciting news to report.

First order of business: Potters Field.

Last week, Bryan R. blogged about his research of the families buried in this mysterious section of Good Hope. His piece solicited the following comment on the National Trust's Facebook page (where everything you read here gets fed):

This is wonderful. Not only are younger students getting an invaluable introduction to conducting historical research, they are also being introduced to one of the most neglected and often overlooked historical landscapes - the American cemetery. Potters Field in particular provides an especially complex set of issues. I think it's great to see them tackled like this.

I couldn’t agree more.
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Just a few of the old records my students have used to tell the story of Good Hope. Click for a larger view.

Our last two blogs on Potters Field (here and here) are what Research History is all about. The students got out of the classroom and experienced first hand what it means to put together a puzzle and tell history. In doing so, they learned that things are not always as they appear, and they used a variety of sources (from interviews to old ledgers like the one you see here) to figure it all out.

Another lesson from Potters Field has been a simple one about people. The word “pauper” (the bulk of those buried in Potters Field) is definitely not a part of teen lexicon these days, so that was a conversation in itself. The students were a little shocked to learn that certain people were actually buried without headstones. It was an interesting day in the classroom that day.

So, did we fully solve the mystery of Potters Field? Maybe not. Did the students get a learning experience unlike anything they would ever have in a classroom? Absolutely.

And now for the big news…

A couple of weeks ago, Jeremy M. blogged about our work to secure funding for a historical marker for Good Hope. I’m very pleased to inform you that we received word this week that we won a $2,000 grant to make this happen. Definitely more to come on that front, so please stay tuned!

- Paul LaRue

Paul LaRue teaches Research History at Washington High School in Washington Court House, Ohio. The ultimate “hands-on” classroom experience, his course takes students into the field to learn about preservation and community service. Stay tuned for what's left of this academic semester as Paul and his students document their project at Good Hope Cemetery here on our blog and on their Flickr photostream. Also, keep an eye out for future “Notes from the Teacher’s Desk” columns from Paul himself.

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