At the MHT business luncheon on Friday, Lolly Barnes mentioned the MHT Preservation Curriculum, now undergoing testing with 10 master teachers around the state. Five (out of eight) lesson plans authored by Chuck Yarborough of the Mississippi School for Math and Science are available for free use on the Mississippi Heritage Trust website, along with supporting materials such as photos and basic information on the various buildings pictured. This seems like a great resource for both school teachers and home-schoolers who are always looking for new, hands-on materials to teach history. I hope preservationists around the state will work with their local schools to incorporate teaching about architecture and preservation into their history or arts programs. Kudos to MHT for seeing this need and putting in the huge amount of work that must have been necessary to put this all together.
I stumbled on this article in the ERIC clearinghouse written in the 1980s about heritage education and I think it does a good job of defining and explaining the goals of this type of curriculum. Here’s a brief quote:
Heritage education is an approach to teaching and learning about history and culture that uses information available from the material culture and the human and built environments as primary instructional resources. The heritage education approach is intended to strengthen students’ understanding of concepts and principles about history and culture and to enrich their appreciation for the artistic achievements, technological genius, and social and economic contributions of men and women from diverse groups. Heritage education nourishes a sense of continuity and connectedness with our historical and cultural experience; encourages citizens to consider their historical and cultural experiences in planning for the future; and fosters stewardship towards the legacies of our local, regional, and national heritage.
A longer-lived preservation curriculum that uses National Register properties to teach certain themes in history is the Teaching With Historic Places program. I was disappointed to find, upon searching the website, that they have only one lesson plan for Mississippi–the Seige and Battle of Corinth. That’s really surprising, actually, when you think about the NPS parks in Natchez and Vicksburg–both of which also have many National Register properties that would form the basis for rich and varied lesson plans. Maybe someone can talk NPS into doing something to beef up their Mississippi information.
Also, the National Trust’s blog often has entries about different preservation education methods being used around the country, including coloring books (I believe Deborah Oakley helped produce one for Canton a few years back–are there others?), adopting a cemetery (Chuck Yarborough has had great success in his classes researching the people buried in Friendship Cemetery in Columbus and then taking on their persona in a series of dramas in the cemetery itself), walking tours, and other ideas that engage students in hands-on preservation.