Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Historical Sites Can Be An Essential Part of Learning

Speer-Sims, Taylor
September 11, 2011

Historical Sites Can be an Essential Part of Learning

                           There are many reasons that endangered landmarks should be saved. A very good reason is for learning. Not all people learn by sitting in the classroom or reading a book. There are students who learn by looking at an object, some by physically touching it, and others by listening (Conner, 38-55). When an interesting person is going to an historic site there could be costumed interpreters, performers that are working in period trades and also re-enactor groups that will assist in the better understanding of a time period. Many locations are not just houses or fields, but are learning centers in themselves that offer archives, archaeological evidence, and anthropological and social backgrounds. By bringing in teachers and their students to visit these locations they will be able to assist in saving some of these endangered historical sites.

                           Teachers are always looking for different ways to get their point across to their students. They want their students to be involved and as excited as they are about their studies (Kleppe). One way to help teachers of all age groups get their students involved is to get them out of the classroom, and into a field trip. Breaking up the monotony of the classroom could be a beneficial stimulus to the teacher, and also the students. For the college student, he or she would be able to access archives that many sites have, as well as use the location as a primary source for research. This will also benefit the students who have differing learning styles.

                           The three main styles of learning are the kinesthetic, visual and audio learners. The visual learner needs to look at something to get the most out of his or her experience. Pictures do help, but looking at the actual object, be it a house or field where a battle took place, helps the visual learner who needs to see it to process the needed information. The height, depth, distance, etc. can be better appreciated at the actual location. The kinesthetic learner “incorporates information through touch and movement” (Conner 2004, 38-55) perhaps because “the skin receives some of our most primitive aesthetic sensations” (Roach and Eicher, 75). Visiting a historic site helps them to literally be able to touch and walk through the environment. The audio learner has two separate styles, the audio listener and the verbal processors. The audio listener student process information by hearing, while the verbal processor student will process by repeating what he or she heard. When a student visits a historic location he or she will be able to listen to the tour guide and respond back with questions that will generate a better learning environment (Conner, 38-55).

                           Not only does visiting the location help with the different learning styles, it could also be a fun learning environment. There are costumed interpreters that show the student what the clothing was like during the presented time. Looking at a lady in a hoop skirt with her hair in a net, or a man in a wig and knickers is fun to see. There are many locations that have full time or event staff that will perform trades in the exact manner that they were performed back in the day that is being portrayed. Many people do not know how a candle, horseshoe, or even a bullet was made, and they can see this at historic locations.

                           There are also re-enactor groups that use these locations for their own purposes that could be visited by student groups. Many are military re-enactors that “go charging across” these sites with guns, cannon and yelling (O’Pry-Reynolds). These “shows” include sight, sound, and touch that is absolutely necessary, but they also include the smell and taste of the smoke that increases the observer’s understanding. Being there and experiencing this type of event is not only thrilling, but it is also hyper sensitive to the senses. If these sites were gone, how could a student be able to visualize these occurrences correctly (O’Pry-Reynolds)?

                           Interpreting the past is beneficial to many students, from elementary to university. When a college student is in need of primary sources, he or she could be sent by the instructor to visit an actual location where the study took place. Not only could the building or grounds be used as a primary source, but many locations have archival records that could be used also. Personal letters and artifacts are stored at some historic landmarks (Schladweiler). There have been numerous sites that have had archeological digs that have produced evidence that could be used by the teacher, as well as the student.

                           Anthropological and social evidence could also be acknowledged by the location.  Anthropologists encourages site visits to students because it is easier “to understand something of the lifestyles of … early native inhabitants” when the student is at the actual location (Renfrew and Bahn, 17). “These [locations are] symbols [that] are enduring reminder[s] of historic events that will last long after those who experienced [those] events are gone” (Ballard-St. George).  The student who has a professor who encourages him or her to actually visit a site will find that the student would become more involved in the subject matter being taught.

                           There are those that will say that the visiting a historic landmark is not a necessity in the learning process of a student. There are those that will say that having teachers bring their students to historic landmarks will not save them from demolition and/or encroachment of new construction. Both arguments could be true. However, when a student visits the location where a special event took place, his or her understanding and appreciation of the event, as well as the landmark, increases. The more students that visit these places will help the teacher teach, the student learn, and the landmark to have more people who care about its welfare. The more people who care, the less likely a location will be destroyed.

                           Having teachers bring, or send, their students to historic landmarks will encourage the salvation of these places. Students will learn through their senses of touch, sight, sound, smell and taste. All types of learners will benefit from such visitation of these landmarks. People in costume that talk about, and work on time period trades interact with students to heighten their awareness. Re-enactors give the student an environment to interact in. Archives, archeological, anthropological and social evidence gives the higher-level students primary sources for their research. When teachers realize the value of a visit to a historic site, they will be able to show the worth and that saving these historic locations is necessary to future generations.

   Originally written for class at American Military University.      

Works Cited:

Ballard-St. George, Heidi. Personal interview. 11 September, 2011

Conner, Marcia. Learn More Now. Hoboken: John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 2004. 38-55.


Kleppe, Andria. Personal interview. 8 September, 2011

O-Pry-Reynolds, Kay. Personal interview. 9 September, 2011

Renfrew, Colin & Paul Bahn. Archaeology Essentials: Theories, Methods, and Practice.

            2nd Edition.  London: Thames & Hudson Ltd., 2010. 17. Print.

Roach, Mary Ellen & Joanne B. Eicher. The Visible Self: Perspectives on Dress. Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey: Prentice-Hall, 1973. 75. Print.

Schladweiler, Traci. Personal interview. 9 September, 2011

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