Here are five ideas to inspire kids during Local and Community History Month:
1). Step into the past with a ‘living museum’
Many museums really bring history to life by creating a tangible experience of the past. These can hugely enhance a child’s learning experience: actually getting to touch, smell, see and hear history rather than read about it on a page. Check out your local museum to see if they have experiential sections. Some of the best include Jorvik Viking Centre in York, built on the site where York Archaeological Trust found the amazingly well-preserved remains of part of Viking Jorvik (York) and featuring the sights and smells of life amongst old-Norse speaking citizens; Beamish Living Museum of the North in County Durham which brings Georgian, Victorian and Edwardian northern England to life with a working town, a steam railway station, pit ponies in the pit village, a colliery and a 1940s farm; and Weald and Downland Open Air Museum in East Sussex where traditional buildings in a rural landscape tell the story of the men, women and children who lived and worked in them over a 600-year period.
2). Interview a local person
Make contact with someone in your community who has lived in the locality for a long time. Ask local residential homes if anyone is willing to share their recollections of your area, post an advert in your local paper, or chat to librarians or historians who might be able to suggest someone. Most elders are pleased that someone is taking an interest in their stories and it’s a win/win situation as they get the company and someone to share their experiences with whilst you get a vivid picture of what life was really like. Kids might like to do a project on the area and what growing up there during the ‘30s or ‘40s was like. Projects on childhood experiences really bring a period of history to life for children: they can compare their school, food, entertainment and activities with those of several generations before.
3). Study a local building
Many buildings hold the secrets to a whole host of activities that took place in your locality in the past. The new block of flats on the corner might once have been the courthouse, or the surgery could have hosted the local school. With your kids, pick a local landmark and set out to find out more about it. Your local library is a great resource here, as are any shopkeepers or residents who have been around long enough to witness change. The internet is obviously a great place to track down information as well. A fun aspect of researching a building and its past is that several other stories tend to arise in the course of your study, leading you to discover events and people linked to your building and sending you off on interesting historical tangents.
4). Attend one of the events taking place
Many museums, libraries, community halls and historical associations will be holding events and talks during Local and Community History Month. Contact your local museum to find out what’s happening in your area. Local historians are a font of knowledge and often quirky facts about familiar routes in your area and are usually only too keen to share some of what they know with a younger generation.
5). Make history with a time capsule
Remind your kids that they are in fact living history! Many years from now people will be reading about their lives and wondering where they lived, what they ate, what they wore and what they enjoyed doing. Kids might like to create a time capsule recording their lives for future generations to find. This could be a shoebox you store in the loft or an actual capsule (weatherproof) you bury in the garden. There are plenty of resources online for inspiration – check out this WikiHow 12 step guide on creating a time capsule for some ideas.