What’s Happened to History?
It’s done. It’s in the past. That’s the metaanswer to the metaquestion. Is it important to study the past anymore? Can’t you just Google the question if you need an answer? The 2014 National Assessment of Educational Progress found that only 18 percent of 8th graders were “proficient” or above in U.S. History. More than a few college students aren’t quite sure who won the Civil War.
The Children’s Museum of Virginia believes that history is important. It is ready to engage young children from ages 2 to 8 in the lives of five children from the past in the upcoming exhibit Centuries of Childhood: An American Story from February 13 – April 23.
If you have kids in school today, you may have noticed the huge drumbeat of STEM – science, technology, engineering and math. STEM education is important. Our students do need to be prepared to enter a high tech workforce. Reading and writing are also essential. These are the highly tested subjects in school today. Some educators will tell you that testing equals curriculum. There is concern that STEM and Language Arts are tested, therefore taught, at the expense of the arts and other liberal arts subjects, like history.
There are legions of educators and other experts who believe that the study of history is essential. Pulitzter Price-winning historian Walter McDougall writes, “History is the grandest vehicle for vicarious experience: it truly educates young minds and obliges them to reason, wonder, and brood about the vastness, richness, and tragedy of the human condition.” Lynne Munson, Executive Director of the non-profit Great Minds, says, “It’s the knowledge of a subject like history that gives you the wisdom you need to put your own life in a broader context, and know what you might be capable of in the future, by knowing what people have done in the past. Without a knowledge of history, your world is very small.”
Marcelina Reyna, Portsmouth Museums Educator, says this is the first time the Children’s Museum of Virginia has hosted a large exhibit about American History. It’s part of her job to help make learning about history interactive, hands-on, and fun. Something the Children’s Museum does well all the time.
Centuries of Childhood: An American Story will tell the stories of five children from five different historical periods in American History. There is Onatah, a 7 year old Iroquois girl from the 1700’s; Gregory, a 10 year old Colonial apprentice; Clara, a pioneer girl who heads west with her family in 1840; Jacob, a Jewish immigrant who lives in Cleveland in the late 1800’s; and Michael, an African American boy who moves from the South to Chicago in the 1950’s.
The exhibit will not just tell the stories. It is “immersive.” Kids will be able to explore an Iroquoise longhouse, construct a log cabin, paddle a canoe, pack a covered wagon heading west, set the table for Shabbat, ride a train heading to Chicago and much more. Albert Einstein once said, “Play is the highest form of research.” The late, great Mr. Rogers agrees, saying, “Play gives children the chance to practice what they are learning.” Your children will get a chance to play, use their imaginations and learn about other times and places.
Spring Break–aka your children will be home from school and looking for something to do–falls during the time of Centuries of Childhood: An American Story. Marcelina Reyna and the staff of the Children’s Museum are putting together fun (and educational) “Spring Break Boredom Busters.” Most are things that the children from the exhibit would do for fun or work. Your children will be able to make a pinch pot, fashion bead crafts, and create a corn husk doll. There will be boat building, stamp making and spinning tops. In the the times of no TV or other screens, Marcelina is planning storytelling and games. 1950’s Chicago is represented in the exhibit, so you and your children can have some lessons in Swing Dancing.
The full schedule of Spring Break Boredom Busters will be on the Children’s Museum of Virginia’s website soon. For that and more information about this excellent place in Portsmouth, go to here.