Author Archive

Teaching Preservation: Looking Back at Lincoln

Posted on: February 12th, 2009 by Guest Writer

 

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Notes from the Teacher's Desk

Today is a big deal for history buffs like me.

It is, after all, the 200th anniversary of the birth of Abraham Lincoln, the 16th President of the United States.

As you know from my previous posts here, I teach a senior-level class at Washington High School in Washington Court House, Ohio called Research History. Basically, my goal is to get students out from under the florescent lights (they generally don't object) and into the field for history and preservation-focused service learning projects. And, well, it's always on days like today that I simply can't resist a stroll down Memory Lane to reminisce about their contributions over the years to telling history, including Mr. Lincoln's amazing legacy.

Between 2004 and 2006, my students and I partnered with President Lincoln's Cottage, a National Trust historic site located in Washington, D.C. We were tasked by the site's curator and administrator to explore the Civil War era-burials at the United States Soldiers' and Airmen's Home National Cemetery. In doing their research, my kids matched burial data with data provided by the U.S. Quartermaster's Roll of Honor, which included regiment, company and rank information on original burials (approximately 5,200) between 1861 and the opening of Arlington National Cemetery.

To this day, it warms my heart knowing that the final data we provided to President Lincoln's Cottage was fundamental in their interpretation of the most significant historic site associated with Lincoln's presidency aside from the White House itself.

But this wasn't my course's first database project, and it certainly wouldn't be the last.

During the 2001-2002 school year, my students researched Ohio grave registration cards, which were complied by the state to document all veteran burials. They mulled over the 100,000-card database looking specifically for African-American Civil War veterans, referred to back in the day as United States Colored Troops (USCT). Through our research, we identified approximately 3,050 USCT veterans buried in 86 of Ohio's 88 counties. From there, my students created a website documenting each listing, where to this day you can find veterans by county and then by cemetery.

Moving forward a few years on Memory Lane, my class partnered with the Gist Settlement Cemetery Project during the 2006-2007 school year. The Highland Gist Settlement was established in 1835 by the emancipated slaves of Samuel Gist. This unique community is located roughly 25 miles south of Washington Court House. During our project there, my students not only read and photographed all of the headstones, but also measured distances between the headstones to create a scale map of the cemetery. The final data was presented to the Penn Township Trustees and can still be viewed online.

Now, all of this looking back really gives me hope for what my students will accomplish this semester in our new partnership with the Wayne Township Trustees and Good Hope Cemetery. Thanks to the hard work of Alyssa and Lynne, we are already off to a running start with our 2,100-name database, which will (among many other things) document the military service of those buried in the cemetery.

I invite you all to stay tuned to PreservationNation.org and our blog over the coming weeks and months as our project continues to unfold. With any luck, the winter weather here in Ohio will get better, and you'll see more and more blog posts, photo essays, and maybe even a video or two of my students doing what they do best: preserving history and having a blast doing it.

- 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.

Teaching Preservation: Databases, Transcripts & Prom

Posted on: February 10th, 2009 by Guest Writer

 

Prom, like preservation, is a big deal in Research History class.

Last week, we had inches upon inches of everything winter has to offer. Today, it’s dreary and raining off and on. Tomorrow, the weatherman says we’re in for 55 mph wind gusts and severe thunderstorms, which of course will be followed by a 70% chance of snow. Great conditions for outside work in a graveyard, wouldn’t you say?

Because Mother Nature is doing a really good job of keeping us indoors these days, I thought I’d use my time in the blog spotlight to further introduce you to our class. So, here you have it - a day in the life, Research History style.

First of all, walking into Paul “Lash” LaRue’s (our fearless leader/mentor/teacher/friend) class is basically like walking into organized chaos - in a good way of course.

Every student has his or her own pet project. For example, Jon and I are currently hard at work transcribing (and then typing) Jon’s grandfather’s personal stories from the front lines of World War II. Jon says this is the first time Sam, his grandfather, has really opened up to him (and others) about his past in the military. He’s a fabulous person to learn about and we’ve all really bonded with him. We love you, Sam!

Also working on the Veterans History Project are Erin, Brittany, and Ross. Ross usually starts his day by skimming the Dayton Daily News for relevant new stories, which is followed by an occasional granola bar. All while Brittany and Erin transcribe nonstop.

Taylor, also known as our “go-to gal,” is another member of our eclectic crew. She bounces around every day working on various projects, including filling in as Lash’s assistant whenever needed. From transcribing stories to helping Lash type up important documents, Taylor keeps all the balls in the air.

You probably remember them from their previous blog post, but Lynne M. and Alyssa S. are still busy organizing the Good Hope Cemetery headstone readings. Lynne says, “The project takes a really long time to do, but I want it done right. It’s a lot of fun.” To which Alyssa adds, “Yup, it’s very tedious. However, it’s worth it knowing that we are preserving history.”

Across the room, Lash chats with me while munching on animal crackers. “The class is composed of students working on several tasks. On any given day and at any given moment, there could be three or four different projects being worked on in class. So, as a result, I spend most of my time roaming around from student to student. We genuinely have fun in here!”

So, since we all do our own thing from day to day, you might be wondering if we have anything in common. The answer is yes, and in one word I will tell you what it is: prom!

It’s literally just months away (that’s not a lot of time when you have a wardrobe to plan), and in a room full of girls, it’s often a topic of conversation right before we head to lunch (which is really brunch since we have to eat at 10:30 a.m., but hey, that’s a different story). We look at dresses in magazines and talk about themes for the dance. Believe it or not, Lash often chimes in with his own opinions on the issue.

So really, if you want to know what a day is like in Research History, it depends on who you are, what day it is and what mood you’re in. The one constant? A good time and a job well done.

- Sara S.

Sara S. is a senior at Washington High School in Washington Court House, Ohio. This semester, she'll be working with her 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.

Teaching Preservation: What is Service Learning?

Posted on: February 6th, 2009 by Guest Writer

 

Something

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.