School trips, if planned correctly, often include visits to certain historic sites, museums, and galleries. While some students and, unfortunately, some teachers find the experience vexing, it is actually a very good idea to visit these places and to utilize them as teaching/learning tools.
Perspective and Soul
Names, dates, and events rarely move and fascinate students by themselves. Often, these bits of information from the times past seem like soulless data points. While history deals with facts, this should not be the case.
Local places can tell stories of ancient monuments, war crimes, settlements, and so much more. Walking around historic sites informs us that the people that lived in the past were very much like us, with their own daily struggles, relationships with tradition and technology, and a mindset that is common in a certain era. Sometimes, monasteries, castles, and museums feature documents and personal journals of people that were located there, giving us a sort of lens through which we can glimpse into the past through the eyes of the locals.
Tidbits and Trivia
While textbooks focus only on most commonly known facts that are shared across books and term papers, historic venues offer more in the form of interesting pieces of information you are not likely to find through conventional research means. For example, Vikings used to leave graffiti with messages that were very similar to some of the things you may see on the walls today, like commenting on a person’s appearance or simply saying so-and-so was here.
The same goes for small doorframes in European castles and the peculiar stairways. All of these served a purpose in defense, but it is much easier to remember them once you see them for yourself. It’s one thing to read about a tiny door and another to try and squeeze through it yourself.
As time moves forward, so does our technology and with it, the availability of knowledge. Many museums and galleries now offer interactive displays with VR and AR where we can see first-hand what the people of a certain era looked like or what their art was about. Most teachers would agree that interacting with a piece of history or its symbol is infinitely better than turning your students into parrots who are capable of reproducing historic facts at the drop of a fact without any understanding behind it.
Some of you may be thinking: ”Well, Jenny, that’s all well and good for the teachers and students that can afford to go abroad and visit all those sites and historic places, but what about the rest of us?”
There are two things I want to address here.
First of all, there are likely many relevant historic places in your own city or town. Visiting them usually requires very little money per ticket, depending on the site in question. Secondly, I would like to circle back to what I’ve said about VR and AR. Many museums and galleries across the world are working hard to provide their home-bound patrons with the ability to learn and experience their exhibits through AR and VR, sometimes for free.