Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Junior Ranger Field Trip: Little Rock Central High School National Historic Site

We really did need to make the 11-hour drive from my hometown back to our home town in one day. And yet, the children were both writing an essay the next week, and one of the possible subjects for this essay is the desegregation of Little Rock Central High School...

On this 11-hour drive, we were driving right through Little Rock.

There is actually a National Historic Site, complete with visitor center and museum, for Little Rock Central High School.

And that National Historic Site has a Junior Ranger program.

Obviously, we went there.
My Master's in Library Science with an emphasis on Special Collections requires me to tell you that you really shouldn't write over the displays, but when the children have a booklet to fill out and no clipboard, I generally can't bring myself to enforce this.
 On the way to the site, we discussed the two main points of the essay prompt--the significance of the event, and how it inspires you--and in the museum, I took photos of almost every informational sign, which I've since printed out so that the children can use them as resources:

Since it was freezing outside and raining, we didn't hike around the outside of the school, and since we were on a schedule, we didn't take the guided tour of it, either. I am comforting myself with the fact that it's the events that took place at the school that are important, not the building or its neighborhood.

I still wish I'd taken that guided tour, though!

Nevertheless, the museum was excellent, immersed Will (Syd has less patience for museums, but wandered around mostly patiently while Will read every. Single. Sign), and offered a thorough explanation of the event, as well as the context to help one understand its historical and cultural significance.

You can see the high school in the background--it's still an active high school, and school was, of course, in session on this day.
 The kids did, indeed, earn their Junior Ranger badges--

--and are working on their essays this week. It's an interesting process, writing a research-based essay when most of the research was done in person; I'm encouraging the children to write in the first person, when necessary, and to use their experiences as evidence when relevant. I quickly realized, however, that they still need to look up all the same resources that they would have needed to look up anyway--the Little Rock Central High School National Historic Site's website has the timeline facts and other historical details, all the little things that you need for an essay but that you of course didn't memorize from your visit.

I'm hoping, though, that the first-person experience will add depth to the children's writing, as I hope, and do feel confident, that it added depth to their understanding of US history, Civil Rights, politics, and ethics. Will, in particular, seems really interested in government and politics, and I'm eager to offer her the enrichment, whenever possible, that will give her an ever more nuanced understanding of these subjects.

And as a side-effect of her primary source research, she can now do a killer impersonation of a 1950s-era racist Southern politician. Seriously, Faubus, we can HEAR the entitled smugness in your voice!

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