Monday, April 20, 2015

Field trip on the cheap: Explore your neighborhood

Springtime is field trip time! This year, consider exploring the historic areas of your own community.

Historical walking tours of varying quality are available for the following communities: 

For our Women's History Matters project last year, Ellen Baumler created women's history themed walking tours for Helena, Butte's Red Light district, and Virginia City. Dick Gibson placed a Butte women's history tour on HistoryPin--as well as several other Butte virtual tours. We also digitized an older tour created for Bozeman's women's history sites and one for women's history sites on the University of Montana campus

Don't see your town on the list? Consider working with your students to make their own tour, using National Register information (you can find out what properties have been listed in the register here), Digital Sanborn maps (contact mkohl@mt.gov for the username and password), historic photographs, community history books (some of which have been digitized here), National Register sign texts, and oral histories. "Investigating a Historic Building" provides a good starting point for this type of assignment as does this Guide to Researching Your Historic Property.

Want to take it one step further? Richard Byrne at Free Technology for Teachers suggests resources you can use to have students record oral histories about places, and then link those places to a map in "Recording & Mapping Local History - Project Idea."

If you have access to historical photos of your town (and especially if you have a local historian who will help you pull this together) consider creating a "Then and Now" tour--using photocopies of historical photos for the "Then" and taking students to the spots shown in those photographs for the "Now." It is a great way to start a conversation about what has changed and what has remained the same. Ellen Baumler created a tour like this for Helena, which she calls "Camp to Capitol." It's a great model for anyone wanting to create something similar for their own communities. Anyone traveling to Helena can download this booklet--and, if she's available Ellen's happy to give group Camp to Capitol tours (contact ebaumler@mt.gov to check her availability.) 

If you do have students explore local sites, consider deputizing them as Community Historical Tour Guides. For many years, some Helena third grade teachers took their students on Camp to Capitol tours, and then required students to take an adult on a tour of three historic spots. The adult completed a tour guide evaluation form, which the students returned to school in order to become "Official Historic Tour Guides." Sometimes the mayor would hand out badges--other years the principal oversaw a simple ceremony--but either way, the kids loved it and took real pride in their new status as purveyors of local history.

You can find more resources for studying your community history and built environment on the Educator Page for Chapter 14 of Montana: Stories of the Land: "Towns Have Lives Too."

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