Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Education and the next generation

We have now completed all 5 of our scheduled public discussions on the NH State Preservation Plan.  Whew!  We had, all told, almost 100 people come out to talk about what preservation means to them and their communities, and we have an array of comments and considerations to process for the next stage of our planning -- the questionnaire we will be sending out.  Please make sure you are on our mailing list if you would like to receive this -- visit our website to sign up.

After our capstone session in Portsmouth Monday night, most of our staff were able to attend the New Hampshire Preservation Alliance annual awards session last night, which honored the people and projects that have made preservation meaningful to our communities this past year.  It was an amazing way to celebrate the successes that are our inspiration and fuel for going forward.  Please go read more about this year's winners at the NHPA website.

But we aren't done.  This is not our plan, not the DHR's plan -- we do a work plan every year for the state and NPS.  This is the state's plan, the plan for the DHR, our state partners, local partners, non-profit partners, for history organizations, heritage commissions, historic districts, conservationists, and anyone who loves New Hampshire.  And one of the things we heard over and over at our public sessions was that preservation needs more volunteers, more converts, more people engaged with our ideas and our projects on a consistent basis.  Additionally, New Hampshire has an aging population, and many of our history and preservation organizations worry about who will become the stewards after they can no longer perform the tasks.

We need the young.

One of our success stories, created out of concerns and ideas raised during the last State Preservation Plan, is Project Archaeology.  Project Archaeology acknowledges that the best way for professionals to reach children is to train their teachers.  Our archaeology staff understands preservation; the teachers understand how to convey this information to their students; those sometimes "invisible" resources become respected, understood, and then cared for by a whole new generation.

The idea of "place-based education came up in more than one of the planning sessions.  History is more meaningful to all students when they can relate it to their own lives -- so learning about their towns and the places they are familiar with can often be a gateway to a lifetime love of the past.  Other organizations have pioneered this effort, and we can learn from them.

The National Park Service has a program called Teaching with Historic Places.  The State of Arkansas has a Youth Education initiative.  There are likely many other initiatives and programs that could be instructive for New Hampshire.  Do you know of any to share?  How would you or your organization reach out to the youth in your community?  What New Hampshire communities already have youth education programs in history and preservation?  Tell us in your comments.

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