Into the Past

In mid August my son, Greg, and I went to Dearborn Michigan for a visit to Greenfield Village and The Ford Museum. It had been almost thirty years since we had been there. It felt like nothing had changed. In a good way.

Greenfield Village rebuilds the history of Henry Ford’s time of invention and growth. Many of the homes there were moved from other locations and almost all of them had some connection to that time of great industrial expansion.  Edison’s lab, the Robert Frost Home, the Heinz House, and the Mattox Home with its slave quarters all are walking distance from each other.

There are reconstructions of the Firestone farm, a sawmill, pottery shop, a gristmill, and glass shop. Men and women my age are stationed in these buildings to explain who owned the homes or what happens inside each place. I yearned to be the person hired to be inside the Wright Cycle Shop.

No gel cushions on these bikes

Strolling along the sidewalks were men and women in 1920’s costume. Outside the school was Laura Ingles describing her life on the prairie. Banjos played, people on penny-farthing bicycles rolled by, as did Model T Fords.

When I returned to Cleveland I went on a Take a Hike! tour of the Warehouse District.  A retired High School Principal who had been shepherding folks around for 8 years was leading it. Out from one building stepped Daniel Brennan, an architect who helped shape the plan for downtown. Around the corner the group got to hear John D. Rockefeller.  Along the walk we listened to information about the buildings, their owners, the architecture and peculiarities that gave the area its quirky nature.

JD Rockefeller seen in Cleveland

This is the way history should be taught, I was thinking. It is through the stories and reenacted characters that we really learn about the flavor, culture, motivations and passions that moved people to invent, create, and nurture ideas. While one teacher in a classroom can’t be an expert on every influential person or force from the past, it is easy today to find resources to do it for the student. Even better, it is better for the student to do the work and find out that information and be the teaching expert to others.

At the end of the day, what will stick to us as learners?  I don’t remember much of what Rockefeller said but I do know he was forceful, undaunted and had a huge ego. I don’t remember much about the mechanics of the phonograph, but I do remember hearing a weak voice being projected from a cylinder into a little girl’s eager ear.


4 responses to “Into the Past”

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  1. Judy says:

    No one understands better how history should be taught than the dear writer of this blog!

  2. Vicky says:

    Greetings on September 17 from one of your Arkansas pals. I lost track of your website for quite a stretch simply because I couldn’t remember my own bookmarking hierarchy. Sigh. Happy to find my way back, as I enjoy your observations on life. If you ever come back here, we would love to see you.

  3. Karen says:

    It seems the whole teaching gene will always be with me.