Rebecca Reeder, a former teacher from Southwest Allen County Schools, and now a part-time professor of education at IPFW, gives her students credit for visiting local attractions of interest to prospective social studies teachers and then writing a report about what they saw.
Melissa Matthews, one of Rebecca's students, offered this report in November of 2012
Community Exploration: The History Center
When we step outside of viewing social studies as a history that entails lectures on wars or mundane dates, it can serve as something truly valuable and unique to students. I had the privilege of experiencing this very truth the day I visited The History Center in downtown Fort Wayne. What a plethora of fun and random history consisting of much culture, old gadgets and innovations; some of which provided neat nostalgic memories, while others seem like an ancient part of a past I never knew.
The History Center, which is located in the old City Hall building and was established in 1921; holds more than 26,000 artifacts, photographs and documents that represent the history of Fort Wayne and Allen County here in Indiana. Being one that tends to crave the “simple life” that seems like something only found in a time before me, I found myself smiling much at the very things that I’m sure others are glad have been eradicated or improved. I enjoyed seeing the original ideas behind things such as a “Toidy” (the first child toilet) or an elegant doll house fit for a queen, the origin of the first gas pump and even the re-creations of old villages or cargo boats in model size for visitors to have a visual representation. They even have modern exhibits available throughout the year for the community to put their “innovations” on display, such as the Gingerbread House exhibit that I was able to visit. What phenomenal work was put into these gingerbread houses with such intricate detail.
After visiting the History Center, I found that it holds ample opportunities to promote and provide numerous major themes, concepts and modes of inquiry for student learning. This is necessary for students’ knowledge of historical development as well as cultural diversity that is related to their very own community. I can see the benefit of experiencing such a place through a field trip, as it would hopefully lead to curiosity and spark many questions, let alone possibly challenge students in their own inventive ideas. I would want students to see the value in the growth of their community in the realms of both culture and innovations. By learning about executions from hangings, experiencing actual daunting jail cells, and finding appreciation for old and updated innovations, to seeing one of the first models of a washer and dryer and dollhouse with mini furniture or viewing mini models of old Indian villages and railroad trains; students can experience more with actual artifacts rather than staring at meaningless pictures in a history textbook. These real life model displays could too provoke unique ideas for classroom projects, all the while making learning more meaningful. Much of the necessary academic fields that are to be addressed by an educator can be found in such a place: culture, time, continuity, and change, people places and environment, individual development and identity, as well as science technology and society; just to name a few. It's hands on experiences like the History Center that make these necessary fields come alive in a classroom setting.