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Stop the Drive-Bys: A Teacher Makes the Case for Local Historical Markers

by Michele M. Celani, American History & Government Teacher, Baldwin High School, Milledgeville, Georgia on

As is no doubt the case at your institution, we could not be nearly as effective in our mission to teach Georgia history if it were not for the dedicated and creative efforts of the classroom teachers with whom we work. Following is a post from one of those teachers, Michele Celani, who has developed exceptional classroom exercises utilizing traditional roadside historical markers for her high school students. While she shares some great ideas to get students interested in existing historical resources, perhaps the larger lesson for us is to recognize the potential to expand the impact of the work we do by seeing (and sharing) how teachers are using our resources in the classroom. –Christy Crisp, Georgia Historical Society 

 

It may shock you to learn that thousands of drive-bys happen in Georgia on a daily basis, and the fact is that Georgia is not alone. This phenomenon is happening all over the country. Rest assured, however, there is not a crime wave sweeping the nation.

 

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If you are like most people, the term drive-by conjured images in your mind of bullet-strafed neighborhoods and ribbons of yellow crime-scene tape. I am not referring to these types of drive-bys, but rather those that occur when thousands of motorists pass by roadside historical markers with barely a glance. Although it is not a crime, it is criminal, at least in the mind of this educator, that more social studies teachers do not recognize the benefits of these under-appreciated resources.

In this age of digital classrooms and mobile learning, one might think that dusty roadside historical markers have no place in the modern classroom, but nothing could be further from the truth. The fact is that historical markers are the ultimate teaching tool for developing your students’ twenty-first century skills. Teachers wanting to simultaneously engage their students and develop their content knowledge, critical thinking, and functional literacy skills need to look no further than their local roadside historical marker programs. This traditional resource provides more opportunities for creative and rigorous learning than you might think.

Marker programs, like that of the Georgia Historical Society, are bringing historical markers into the digital age by making their entire database of markers available online. The Society has also created mobile apps for iPhones and Androids that allow people to search the database by subject, county, region, time period, and marker program. What’s more, these apps also allow people to access information via their smartphone about the markers closest to their location including comprehensive details, images, and marker content.

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Historical markers are a great research tool for cross-curricular projects that are aligned to the Common Core Literacy Standards. Students can use the information from historical markers to create local and state travel brochures and tours, and use Web 2.0 applications such as Glogster and Prezi to publish their work.

There are many more ways to use historical markers in the classroom. Additional activities include creating “this moment in history” video clips based on historical marker text, acting out historical markers using the Tableau strategy, or creating a historical marker blog using Edmodo or Moodle. Students can also utilize historical markers to celebrate Veteran’s Day by researching local and state heroes or interviewing veterans to create their own historical markers to honor their contributions.

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Lastly, students can explore their local history by interviewing family or community members to identify people, places, and events of interest to the community. Students can research the topics, create their own marker or write a proposal for a new marker and submit an application to their own state’s marker committee. Historical markers also provide opportunities for service learning. To raise awareness or money to support the erection of the historical marker, students can create blogs, videos, or do community service. The possibilities are endless.

So, the next time you pass a historical marker, take a moment to pause and ponder the possibilities! Let’s spread the word about the enormous value of the local historical markers, and stop the drive-bys!

One Response to “Stop the Drive-Bys: A Teacher Makes the Case for Local Historical Markers”

  1. August 18, 2016 at 8:30 am, Cemeteries: The Eternal Classroom | AASLH Blogs said:

    […] I read Michele M. Celani’s blog post about the effectiveness of historical markers in the classroom I thought “oh I know a bunch of […]

    Reply

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