Just a few blocks north of the CTA’s Red Line stop at Clark & Division, nestled up against Lincoln Park, sits the Chicago History Museum. I was fortunate to participate in the museum’s teacher tour. During the 3-hour tour, we were exposed to the museum’s various digital and print resources, explored the museum, and discussed rationalizing a field trip in accordance to the Common Core State Standards (CCSS).
The museum’s website offers a number of free lesson plans, primary sources, and other instructional materials that are aligned to the CCSS. All of the materials have a common underlying theme: Chicago history should permeate all content areas in the elementary, middle, and high school classroom. The history of the city should not be reserved for 3rd grade social studies. After experiencing some of these resources hands on and exploring the museum I couldn’t agree more.
As I was analyzing the museum, I couldn’t help but notice the multiple opportunities for student engagement. However, these engagements transcend traditional tactile learning opportunities. While there are plenty of artifacts for students to touch, there are also films for visual learners and student-created audio tours for auditory learners. As a learner, it is simply impossible to not find something to connect with your personal learning style. This fact alone makes a field trip to the museum well worth it.
Chicago is a historical goldmine. From Jean Baptist DuSable to Harold Washington, the World’s Fair to Soldier Field, the nation’s first rail hub to the “L” system. The content is there, you just have to reach out and grab it. Social Studies is a unifying content area. Teaching students about the city they live in allows them to broaden their perspectives beyond their home, block, or neighborhood. To quote our facilitator, “You’re not teaching [your students] history. I’m sorry. You’re teaching them thinking.”
As an educator, but more importantly a learner, I highly recommend a visit to the Chicago History Museum.