Author Archive

Teaching Preservation: What is Service Learning?

Posted on: February 6th, 2009 by Guest Writer

 

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Notes from the Teacher's Desk

Many people are confused by the concept of service learning, probably because it sounds like a fancy way of saying something else. You know, like “hors d'oeuvre” versus “appetizer,” etc.

Well, as someone who has made a career out of it, I can promise you that it’s not.

First and foremost, service learning is not the same thing as community service. That’s a common misconception. Don’t get me wrong, both are excellent educational strategies (hence the reason why many states now require community service credits before students can graduate), but at the end of the day, they are two entirely different experiences.

After teaching my Research History course for several years, I came to know Ohio’s former First Lady, Mrs. Hope Taft. She was and still is one of the strongest advocates for what I’m doing in the classroom. I remember her telling me one day, “You know, what your students are doing is service learning.” I recall politely nodding my head and thinking to myself, “Sounds great, but what exactly is service learning?”

Before I knew it, Mrs. Taft had me in touch with a representative from Lions Quest, a well-known leader in service learning training that is a part of Lions Clubs International. They generously funded a trip for me to attend one of their training sessions in Knoxville. (So you know, the coincidence of traveling to the Volunteer State to brush up on service learning was certainly not lost on me.)

Here is what I took away from Tennessee: unlike community service projects where you show up, work and then go home, service learning projects have several distinct stages or parts, including preparation, action, reflection, skills demonstration and celebration. It’s a fusion between volunteerism, instruction and reflection. For students, the best possible service learning experience combines a project that fills an important need with the knowledge, skills and value goals from the classroom.

To learn more, I invite you all to visit the National Service-Learning Clearinghouse’s preservation website, where you’ll find helpful how-to information as well as a feature they did on one of my former class projects. And when you’re done poking around there, consider sharing the link (and our blog) with a teacher you know or sending it to school with your child.

As state budgets get smaller and smaller because of the economy, we all as preservationists need to think outside the box to determine how we’re going to do more with less. And to be honest, I can’t think of a better alternative than to get our nation’s teenagers off the couch and into the field as young stewards.

- 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 this 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.

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.

Guest Writer

Although we're always on the lookout for blog content, we encourage readers to submit story ideas or let us know if you've seen something that might be interesting and engaging for a national audience. Email us at editorial@savingplaces.org.

Why (Teaching) Preservation is Cool

Posted on: February 4th, 2009 by Guest Writer 1 Comment

 

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Our roving reporter in action.

As preservationists, we all have our short list of what makes us tick. It’s the historic home we live in, or that old drug store around the corner, or those stunning petroglyphs in Utah, or the newly-conserved Star-Spangled Banner at the Smithsonian, or…

You get the point, but what about younger generations? What about “those kids today?” Is appreciating the past cool enough to cut through all the clutter and distractions hurled at them by MTV, MySpace and their Nintendo Wiis?

Well, according to the seniors in Paul LaRue’s Research History class, the answer is a resounding yes. To prove it, student Tyler K. set off as our roving reporter today, asking his classmates what they really think about their many preservation-focused class projects. Not only are they doing field work in Good Hope Cemetery (which we'll be documenting here all semester), they're also transcribing the stories of veterans who severed in all of our country's wars through the Library of Congress Veterans History Project.

(And for the record, “Lash” is their nickname for their esteemed teacher, Mr. LaRue. If you’re suddenly reminded of old western movies, you’re dead on.)

Dennis A. – "Through the Vietnam transcripts that I’ve worked on, I’ve become accustomed to preserving the stories of those people who risked their lives for our freedom. Listening to stories about the era during which my father risked his life has given me a new outlook on life. It has also introduced me to some wonderful people in the process."

Jeremy M. – "Preserving things today is cool because I’m not only benefiting my generation’s education and knowledge, I’m benefiting all the generations to come after me."

Alyssa D. – "Preservation is good because it saves the valuable history of our town. I have the opportunity to write an article about a Civil War veteran in Fayette County. I also enjoy typing up all the transcripts that my fellow classmates work on."

Shannon M. – "Through our class, my respect for veterans has grown. I have enjoyed listening to their honest, first-person accounts of what they experienced. Each day, I am surprised at how much more I learn through the projects we work on, whether it’s researching and writing articles – like how Thomas Edison might have worked in our own town – or listening to transcripts. I’m definitely going to miss this class and listening to the amusing discussions the freshman have with Lash over economics."

Jon A. – "Listening and writing down transcripts is a major part of my day. It has been very interesting hearing first-hand experiences from World War II veterans. It has been especially rewarding since I had the chance to transcribe my own grandfather’s tape."

Matt M. – "Preservation is important because you have a chance to not only save something forever, but to learn about the stories that you are making immortal. When you research, you obtain information from primary sources that will not only live with you forever, but with all of those who wish to see your preserved work."

Jackie P. – "Preservation gives you an opportunity to get your nose of out the textbooks and into the past. You gain knowledge from first-hand accounts of historic events that happened in the world, your country and even your hometown. Preservation gives you the ability to capture a moment in history instead of reading someone else’s efforts to describe those events."

... Read More →

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.

Guest Writer

Although we're always on the lookout for blog content, we encourage readers to submit story ideas or let us know if you've seen something that might be interesting and engaging for a national audience. Email us at editorial@savingplaces.org.

Teaching Preservation: Digging Out & Catching Up

Posted on: February 2nd, 2009 by Guest Writer 3 Comments

 

Guess

Pink: The Official Color of Data Entry

On Tuesday, January 27, we received five inches of snow. On Wednesday, January 28, we received one inch of ice. And then later on Wednesday, we received another five inches of snow.

Sound fun? Welcome to winter in Ohio.

Unlike many across the country who were hammered by last week’s massive snow storm, we never lost power. What we did lose, however, was four consecutive days in the classroom. Oh darn.

Today, we’re back in school after digging out from our supersized weekend, which means that it’s time to pick up where we left off with our ongoing database project for the Good Hope Cemetery.

When we started, we were given 2,180 names, birth dates, and death dates for those buried at Good Hope. Between the two of us, it has taken about 13 hours to enter them into a spreadsheet document. To fight the boredom factor, we split the names up and turned the whole process into a contest. (One of us is winning by ten pages.)

Overall, it has been tedious, but the community will benefit from having a clearer picture of those who rests at the cemetery.

Oh, and if we disappear again for a few days at a time, check our weather forecast. Tuesday and Wednesday are already lookin’ a little iffy…

- Alyssa S. & Lynne M.

Alyssa S. and Lynne M. are seniors at Washington High School in Washington Court House, Ohio. This semester, they'll be working with their Research History classmates to document and preserve Good Hope Cemetery. Stay tuned as they share their experiences here on our blog and on their Flickr photostream.

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.

Guest Writer

Although we're always on the lookout for blog content, we encourage readers to submit story ideas or let us know if you've seen something that might be interesting and engaging for a national audience. Email us at editorial@savingplaces.org.

Take Your Seats: Welcome to Teaching Preservation

Posted on: January 27th, 2009 by Guest Writer

 

Paul LaRue

Paul LaRue and his innovative Research History class.

How much do you remember about your days as a high school senior? Chances are, an image that comes quickly to mind is one of you staring out a classroom window wishing you were doing anything but taking notes while someone like me droned on in the background. Don’t worry, my feelings aren’t hurt.

My name is Paul LaRue, and I’m a senior-level social studies teacher at Washington High School in Washington Court House, Ohio. If you’re not sure where that is, try this: take out a map and find Columbus, Cincinnati and Dayton. Now, place your finger in what would be the center of all three of those points. That’s us.

We are a small town with a population of about 13,500, with our high school pulling in about 600 students. Our community is not affluent, and our school district and its campuses always seem to be facing some degree of funding constraints.

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Washington High School in Washington Court House, Ohio

In addition to economics (applied, micro and macro if you want all the specifics), I teach a class that I developed in 1998 called Research History. Back then, our district was using blocked scheduling. As a result, my principal asked the faculty to create several new course offerings. I suggested a class where students could use primary-source material and work collaboratively on a single project. In my mind, this would give them experience with “hands-on history,” which I enjoy very much. It would also give them a chance to get out of the classroom, which I knew they would enjoy very much.

The class was approved as an elective offering and has been a success ever since. I have come to realize and embrace that what my students do each year is service learning. I see us as preservationists and as public historians. As for the students, the class is something fun that gets them out (a key word) into the community, which usually always includes getting doughnuts and snacks. (Note: I am not bound by Jared’s Law, though we are trying to be a bit healthier with our snacking.)

Good Hope Cemetery

Over the years, several of our projects have focused on partnerships with cemeteries in our local community, as they are great venues for research. The project we just started is a partnership with the Wayne Township Trustees. We will be helping to document and preserve the Good Hope Cemetery, which is in a rural, unincorporated community. The cemetery technically falls under the responsibility of the Wayne Township Trustees, but given the current economic climate, their resources are stretched extremely too thin.

Enter my class.

Four of my students and I traveled to a trustees meeting in December, where we pitched our proposed partnership. It was well received by the Trustees, and my students (fresh from winter vacation) are already at work creating a database of burials in the cemetery and researching some of the key citizens buried there. Some of the other projects we’d like to tackle are getting funding for a historic marker and helping to locate unmarked graves.

Now, if all of this has you hankering for the days of field trips and class projects (and maybe even doughnuts), you’re in luck. My students will be documenting the entire project here on the PreservationNation blog each week leading up to Memorial Day, which is when they will graduate.

Additionally, I’ll be sharing lesson plans and other tips of the trade that I’ve developed over the years. And no, the goal is not to bore you to death (I know that high school image is still fresh in your mind). I just want to prove that even with time and funding constraints, preservation is possible and has an important place in our country’s high school classrooms.

I hope you’ll 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 this semester as Paul and his students document their project at Good Hope Cemetery here on our blog and on their Flickr photostream.

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.

Guest Writer

Although we're always on the lookout for blog content, we encourage readers to submit story ideas or let us know if you've seen something that might be interesting and engaging for a national audience. Email us at editorial@savingplaces.org.

 

Downtown Kalamazoo. (photo: Pamela Hall O'Connor)

Downtown Kalamazoo. (photo: Pamela Hall O'Connor)

Kalamazoo, Michigan's central business district is full of historic commercial buildings dating from the 1860s and later -- many of which are eligible for the National Register of Historic Places and local designation. But, key areas have eroded in character -- mostly due to demolition. The loss and potential loss of character-defining eligible buildings over the past two years pushed our Historic Preservation Commission to create a tool for developers, civic leaders, property owners and the public.

The result, a 20-page booklet titled: Where Place Prospers" is a one-stop-shop for information that demonstrates "how to do a deal" in Kalamazoo and wind up with a rehabilitated historic building that actually contributes to Kalamazoo's "Place" identity, rather than a parking lot or a work of architecture that looks lonely and out of place amongst its neighbors.

Where Place Prospers offers case studies that detail the whole lot of incentives available for building rehabilitation -- local, state and federal, and believe me, they're not just rehab. incentives -- they include obsolete property incentives, brownfield credits, etc. The basics are all there, and other Michigan communities can use it as a template and add their own communities' incentives.

The informational booklet is currently available as a PDF file and is also available from the Michigan Historic Preservation Network website (www.mhpn.org).

The Kalamazoo Historic Preservation Commission is grateful to the Midwest Office of the National Trust for Historic Preservation and the Michigan Historic Preservation Network who provided it with a $1,000.00 seed grant from the Michigan Preservation Fund to assist in the publication of Where Place Prospers. Without their assistance, this incredibly helpful tool would not exist for the benefit of Kalamazoo and other Michiganders.

-- Pamela Hall O'Connor

Pamela Hall O'Connor is the Immediate Past President of the Michigan Historic Preservation Network and Principal, Preservation Practices.

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Learn more about the work of the regional offices of the National Trust for Historic Preservation here. The Michigan Historic Preservation Network is a member of our Statewide and Local Partners program.

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.

Guest Writer

Although we're always on the lookout for blog content, we encourage readers to submit story ideas or let us know if you've seen something that might be interesting and engaging for a national audience. Email us at editorial@savingplaces.org.