The Lens of the Local: Teaching an Appreciation of the Past through the Exploration of Local Sites, Landmarks, and Hidden Histories

Document Type


Publication Date

Spring 5-2015

Publication Title

The History Teacher


pedagogy, local history, maine, site visits, field trips, teaching history


When students are given the opportunity to actively engage with the past in a familiar environment, they are more likely to model the work of professional historians, engage in the historical process, and retain the knowledge they gained well beyond the scope of a semester’s coursework. If part of our job as history educators is to prepare students to be informed, literate, active, and analytical citizens of their communities, then what better place to start than with encouraging them to really learn and contextualize the history of their own communities? To this end, this article explores student responses to a semester-long local history assignment—ten local history site visits and write-ups—given every year in my History of Maine course. Although a local history assignment certainly makes pedagogical sense in a course about local history, I argue that the benefits of engaging in local history with students transcend both historical specialization and education level. Similar assignments and activities can be done with elementary, middle school, secondary, and college students.