When I was a child one of my favorite subjects was history. Don’t get me wrong I surely did not enjoy the part where my teacher made me read a section out of my history book, answer questions, memorize and sequence events, and then regurgitate them back out to her. Actually, those activities transformed some of the most fascinating events of all time into mind-numbingly boring experiences for me. What really sucked me into history was the fact that it was a story.
The person I consider my greatest history teacher was my grandmother. She was an amazing story teller. I have vivid memories of her pulling out article after article that she had carefully clipped and saved on the assassination of John F. Kennedy. She kept these newspaper articles in a special book, in a special place, almost as if they were gold. She would recount every detail of that fateful day in American history to me with a crack in her voice and tears in her eyes. She helped me make a connection to this event, and because of her stories it made me want to read, know, and learn everything I could about President Kennedy and this era. It wasn’t a lecture or the memorization of dates and events, but the fact that she made me feel what it was like to be alive during that moment in history. To this day I am still fascinated by all things Camelot. I am not a lover of non-fiction, and I seldom read books for pleasure that are non-fiction except for education materials. However, if you give me a book about this topic, I can’t put it down. Through her stories, her books, articles, pictures, and tears, my grandmother made this event real for me, even though I wasn’t even alive when it happened.
Do we do this enough for our children? Do we make history come to life for them?
History is something that can define us. It is something that we hopefully learn from for the betterment of the human race. In many schools, history is not considered as important as reading and math. At CSD we consider it to be a vital part of our curriculum. Although you don’t see those thick history books with all the facts and dates to be memorized and questions to be answered coming home, what you do see is this: first graders singing songs about Jackie Robinson and Wilma Rudolph, performances about Neil Armstrong, the Wright Brothers, and Eleanor Roosevelt, third graders making candles and wearing clothes as their early Charlottean ancestors did, field trips to Old Salem, Reed’s Gold Mine, the Charlotte walking tour to learn about the history of Charlotte from Civil War times until present day, fifth graders writing and composing an opera about life on the Underground Railroad, middle school students who transform the entire middle school into the Holocaust Museum. This is how we bring history to life for our students.
In this day and age of rapid technology every photo you snap or video you take can be considered a small piece of history. This holiday season I encourage you to make history come to life for your child. Record grandma and grandpa telling stories about life when they were young. Recount where you were and how you felt the day the Challenger exploded and the nation stood still. Pull out old photos and share your own family history with your child. I promise you that these stories, these pieces of history, will stick with them much longer than the read, remember, regurgitate cycle that we see in schools across our state. Your children will make connections and more importantly, the time spent with precious family members will be a gift better than anything wrapped in a box with a bow on it. Wishing you all a peaceful and history rich holiday season!