I thoroughly enjoyed the short video on the Old Courthouse in Carlisle, Pennsylvania. I have a much clearer understanding of the Underground Railroad after viewing this video. Using local historical sites is an excellent way to motivate students. While I realize this, it is often difficult to even know the local history to use it in the classroom. For instance, I lived in Denton on the Eastern Shore of Maryland for two years. l did not know until today that it was possibly through this town that Harriet Tubman escaped to freedom or that Frederick Douglass was born in nearby Tuckahoe and worked on the Wye Plantation in Easton. I learned this in my research when I visited Maryland Public Television’s website.
While I was not teaching U.S. history, it is surprising to me that I was not aware of the historical significance of this place. I do not recall any historical markers nor was it ever mentioned by anyone in the two years that I spent there. That does not excuse my ignorance, of course.
I would like to say that today I incorporate local history into my classroom, but I truly don’t. As a civics teacher, I have attempted to use local and personal history in my classes, but those efforts are few and far between. For instance, on the 50th anniversary of the Brown v. Board of Education decision, I did have my students complete an oral history interview with someone from the community who lived through the integration of the schools here in Virginia. I am currently trying to develop a lesson on the power of the presidency vis-à-vis the military, using General Douglas MacArthur (who is buried in nearby Norfolk) as the prime example.
I will have to make a concerted effort to develop more community resources and expose my students to more of their local history.