Leaders in Learning: History in the Making
High school students in Monroe County, Michigan, soon will be able to view an operating room during surgery. Younger students have already visited battlefields from the Civil War and the War of 1812 from the confines of their classrooms, due, in part, to Chuck Estep and his innovative use of "virtual fields trips" (VFTs). Estep developed the series of VFTs with the goal of connecting students to the rich history of their community with the involvement of local organizations and businesses.
To develop VFTs, Estep and his colleagues work with local historians to create programs and lesson plans that fit into their state curricula. One notable VFT focused on the War of 1812 and the Battle of the River Raisin. With assistance from the Monroe County Historical Museum, the program offered two sessions three times a day over 12 days to students across the county. To date, more than 70 classes and nearly 2,300 students have been virtually transported to battle sites for a lesson in the region's history. The program was first introduced to students through a movie trailer, using film footage and music designed to get the students' attention. Classroom kits were also provided to each participating class containing clothing and various artifacts that students could try on and experience first hand. The VFT used animated presentations and short video vignettes to illustrate and add context to how the battle unfolded along with a dynamic and knowledgeable presenter who interacted with each of the students in their classrooms while sharing artifacts from the period.
"This project focused on the current needs of students using our local history as a teachable moment. The VFT and materials were professionally delivered through our excellent technology. It has opened the doors of opportunity for expansion of VFTs into the classroom through projects with local museums, businesses, and arts organizations."
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