Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Why It Is So Important To Take Your Kids on Living History Field Trips

Lincoln Presidential Library
History.  Did you enjoy it as a kid?  Most kids don't.  There are ways, however, to make history come alive and make it so much more exciting rather than just reading it out of a textbook.  Reading living books about history makes it come alive, and taking a field trip to the site of it makes it come even more alive!

My kids thrived on learning history this way.  In fact they had no idea they were even working on history.  Oh, the joys of tricking them into learning by doing something fun. 

Granted, it gets costly to go on field trip after to field trip.  So plan accordingly.  There are three ways to do this:

1 . Choose a trip based on a subject that is cherished by someone or all in your family;

2.  Choose to study a topic based on a place you are already going to;

3.  Choose a place you'd like to go and study that.

This gives kids a hands on and visual approach to learning about history.  It makes it real.  They can imagine the people in the time period as the event or events occurred. 

For example here are some of the living history field trips we have done with our kids:

1.  Helen Keller home in Tuscumbia, AL.  My son got very interested in Helen Keller when he was in 6th grade. He read everything he could find on her.  He even taught himself braille! So when he found out that you could actually visit Helen Keller's home, we made a special trip to Tuscumbia, Alabama just to see it.  He was fascinated to see the house where all the work that Helen and Annie Sullivan did together.  And, of course, the most poignant part of visiting her home was to see the well where Helen's huge transformation began.  You can't get this sense and feeling out of a book.  To really experience it and see where Helen's transformation began is just breathtaking.  It gives a child a completely different viewpoint of history.  And guess what.  They will remember it!

2.  Lincoln Sites and Presidential Library in Springfield, IL.  Our daughter is a huge Abraham Lincoln fan.  At the age of 10 when girls had Miley Cyrus posters (back when she was with Hannah Montana) she had posters of Abe Lincoln in her room.  What better place to take children to learn about good Ol' Abe than Springfield, IL.  There we went to the home he and Mary Todd owned.  The house is full of Lincoln relics.  And the neatest part of all, is Abraham Lincoln has actually touched the handrail on his staircase.  To see the look on our daughter's face when she ran her hand up that banister was priceless and the thought of it still is today. 

3.  Museum of Natural History in Washington DC.  When our son was younger he was very into dinosaurs.  What better way to show him how enormous they were than to take him to the Smithsonian to actually see real dinosaur fossils.  We did not tell him there were going to be dinosaurs in the room before he entered, so when he walked in and saw the bones of a ginormous T-Rex his jaw just dropped and stayed dropped for quite some time.  This was a great lesson as it put all those different sizes of dinosaurs into perspective for him - much better than just comparing them on a page of a book.

4.  Civil Rights Museum in Memphis, TN.  We were in Memphis so we hopped on over to the Civil Rights museum to see where Martin Luther King, Jr. had been shot.  We had studied him in school, of course, but this was an added treat.  It really gave some perspective as to where exactly he was when he was shot.  The new James Earl Ray museum across the street actually shows the vantage point Earl was at when her shot King.  This was a field trip we never planned ahead on going to.  It just happened because we noticed it was there when we were in Memphis and thought it was something the kids should go see. It really depicts the times well with racial strife and even has a bus where you can sit with Rosa Parks on it.

5.  Revolutionary War and Civil War sites in Charleston, SC.  We were fortunate to live in Charleston, SC until the kids were in high school and junior high.  Charleston is known for it's Civil War history, after all the war did start there at Fort Sumter.  But did you know it's also rich in Revolutionary War History as well?  Magnolia Plantation and The Old Exchange are two such places that bring the Revolutionary War to life.  It's also quite fascinating to walk the halls and be in places where George Washington actually had been.  When it comes to the Civil War, there's not much better place to live to learn living history of the war than in Charleston.  One of the best places even is Magnolia Cemetery where all the men who died on both Hunley submarines are buried.  And, of course, the Hunley, the first submarine to sink a ship in battle, can be seen right in North Charleston.  Again, rather than just seeing a picture of that submarine, seeing it live puts it really into perspective what those men went through to accomplish what they did.

Whether you can go one field trip a week, or one a month or year, take the time to do this with your kids.  If you home school of course you will have more time and reason to do this.  And even if you don't home school, this a wonderful way for your kids to learn something new, and it also creates a great time for family bonding.  It's something your kids will always remember and will talk about for years to come.  Mine do.

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