Fostering Civic Action through Local History - Sarah Anderson

There are many benefits to teaching local history, from increasing subject relevancy, to strengthening student skills, to inspiring collective action. This talk suggests several reasons why educators should adopt a place-based approach to social studies and provides concrete examples of how local history can encourage students to become agents of change in their communities.

  • I really enjoyed learning from this talk. Her place-based approach gives relevance to learning history to students and empowers students to move from just learning to acting. I've tried to weave her approach into my class more this year, but still have a lot more to do. I find myself getting caught up with getting through pacing and this was an important reminder to refocus.

  • Sarah offers much wisdom in her presentation.  Initially, as one considers the scope of Big History, one may say, "There is no way to consider local stories."  Yet, as our high school freshmen explore Big History, it is useful to refer to local examples that illustrate various thresholds (if not local examples, at least examples from Michigan, where I teach).  Copper works very well as a character in the story of Chemical Elements.  Ancient volcanoes, peninsulas, and the Great Lakes are fine characters in the story of our earth.  Petoskey stones are interesting characters in the story of ancient life.  Woodland Indians are a great example of "early people."  The Kellogg brothers are important stars of agriculture, as are John Jacob Astor and Henry Ford with modern revolutions.  Students develop a pride in their state and locality when they see "characters" they know playing roles within a narrative.  I learned of the usefulness of local history, years ago, as I shared stories of former resort hotels that were part of the Lake Macatawa summer experience around 1900.  My seniors could not believe that their hometown had such buildings; why did they go extinct?  As there students were celebrating their prom, many of them left their dates and asked me to give a quick walking tour to point out these former sites!  I think my own prom was forgettable, but perhaps a knowledge of local history made their prom experience all-the-more memorable.  Yes, teachers may make important gains through the use of local stories and events.  As our Investigation 1 driving question asks:  "Why do we look at things from far away and close up?"  The local story is an important lens to instill action and civic participation.  #MCHE