This month, Sustaining Places is highlighting the work of the History Hunters Youth Reporter Program in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
Imagine walking the grounds of estates with noble-sounding names like Stenton and Cliveden. Consider what it was like to interact with Native American tribes in the eighteenth century. Think of what it meant to be involved with the Underground Railroad. Students enrolled in the History Hunters Youth Reporter Program do just that when they visit five historic sites in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
History Hunters is designed to give underserved children in the Philadelphia Public School District an opportunity to engage in hands-on learning outside of the classroom. Students develop higher-order thinking skills in history, art, math, writing, and science through trips to Stenton, Cliveden, La Salle University Art Museum, The Johnson House, and Wyck. The lessons are designed to utilize district, state, and national standards for 4th and 5th grade education. What helps to tie the exercises together is a 100-page workbook that encourages critical thinking on the trips and in the classroom. Throughout the workbook, students are introduced to historical figures like William Penn and Native American groups like the Lenape. Educators find maps, portraits of important historic figures, and key vocabulary words in the workbooks.
Teacher testimonials are an indication of how effective the History Hunters Youth Reporter Program is for students. Educators appreciate the alternative learning settings that History Hunter provides on its trips. The program assists teachers in engaging with literacy standards in the Philadelphia School District in ways that would not be available in a traditional classroom setting. Some teachers report that students and their families return to the historic sites after the school trips!
In the museum world, scalability is a concern for professionals. Best practices can sometimes involve designs that are out of reach because of prohibitive costs or staff limitations. Nevertheless, smaller historic sites can still incorporate features of programs like History Hunters in their activities for school aged children. Simple exercises like sketching and role playing can be effective tools for learning outside of the classroom. Creating small packets with mini lessons that instruct students in using maps or doing math based on information from account books are ways to immerse children in the past. Museum employees can communicate with teachers to ensure that field trips supplement educational goals while giving students the opportunity to engage with material away from their desks at school. Resources and programming can be greatly expanded when museums and historic sites become partners.These partnerships can benefit not only the community, but also the institutions themselves.
The History Hunters program is coordinated by Kaelyn Barr, Site Administrator and Director of Education at Stenton and Miranda Clark-Binder, Curator of Education and Public Programs at The La Salle University Art Museum. It was initially funded by the NEH and PEW Charitable Trusts. Now, History Hunters has an endowment through The National Society of The Colonial Dames of America in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania which allows students and educators to participate for free. Since its inception over a decade ago, it has served over 20,000 students.
To learn more about this program, visit historyhunters.org, call 215.329.7312, or email email@example.com.