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  • Michelle Peterson

Tracing Footsteps Through History

Updated: Jan 24, 2023

As an elementary school history teacher, helping students make connections to the people and events we studied was a big part of my objective. Teaching history was not just about memorizing dates and facts but understanding the world around us and our place in it. In a classroom setting, this translated into reading primary so

urce documents, diaries, and letters, studying photographs- looking closely at the images in the frame, and imagining things happening beyond it.

As a parent, I want my children to understand history because I want them to develop empathy and understanding for the people they share the world with, have context for understanding the present and future, practice critical thinking skills and appreciation for their own culture and that of others. I also want them to be confident members of society who can use their voices to stand up for themselves and oth


One of the best ways I found to actively engage in learning history is by taking field trips to the National Historical Parks. There are over 150 National Historic Parks and Sites in the US. Visiting a National Historic Park allows us to experience history in a tangible way, by walking in the same footsteps as those who came before us and by seeing the places and objects that had held significance.

As a family, we have stood in the spot at Appotomax Court House, where Robert E. Lee surrendered to Ulysses S Grant. We walked on the baseball fields at the Manzanar National Historic Site, where Japanese American Citizens were incarcerated during WWII. We walked through the childhood home of Martin Luther King Jr. and the home where Abe and Mary Lincoln raised their children. At each of these sites, we've had

wonderful rich conversations and learned so much about history and eachother. The National Historical Park system is a treasure. I highly recommend taking a trip to one near you and then planning a road trip to see some more.

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Earn your Science Exploration Badge at the American Museum of Natural History with these printable PDF activity guides.


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