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Children's Heritage Education at Historic Sites: Evaluating Resiliency in Place Based Education in the Absence of Place

Kefalidis, Marisa

'Heritage education' is an increasingly popular phrase in both formal and non-formal educational settings. Contemporary heritage education is a teaching lens for the study of cultural heritage. In recent decades, research examining children's heritage education has underscored the many benefits of the practice to a student's personal and academic development, with support for place based education driving an increase in children's heritage education at historic sites. Harnessing immersive, on-site engagements to create 'authentic' and 'active' learning environments, heritage education at historic sites takes on myriad forms (exhibits, tours, performances, fine and dramatic art projects, etc.). In a moment in which heritage education and place based education have become well respected and mainstream educational practices, heritage educational programs at historic sites are diversifying, rethinking, and improving their children's programming, integrating technologically driven experiences to improve site accessibility, and increase diversity of narrative.

This project aims to address the current state and future direction of children's heritage education at historic sites, by examining the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on educational practices. First, the project will contextualize contemporary children's heritage education within the broader histories of heritage education in the United States, and educational theory guiding place and nature based learning methodologies. From here, the thesis addresses the question: How will heritage education at historic sites rise to the challenge of remote site engagement? And, how will these adaptations impact future practices?

Conclusions drawn suggest that heritage sites which emphasized heritage education prior to the pandemic, have demonstrated creativity and flexibility in the development of remote and socially distanced site engagements. In doing so, sites have discovered their wider geographic reach, with many sites planning to continue the development of virtual and remote programming in the future. Some sites cite the pandemic as having pushed them to design new engagement strategies and alternative methods of educational enrichment for remote and distanced students. However, as evidence points to the return of field trips and site visits in the near term (and place based learning at historic sites), these new approaches could take on additional meaning; Enrichment materials strengthen a site's overall programming by establishing a subject continuum for pre-visit, on-site experience, and post-visit education, bolstering lesson retention and intellectual curiosity.

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More About This Work

Academic Units
Historic Preservation
Thesis Advisors
Bentel, Paul L.
Degree
M.S., Columbia University
Published Here
July 12, 2021