Educating for the Future Through the Past

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With schools increasing their focus on science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education, it may seem like the humanities have no place in today’s classroom. Kymberli Bryant, head of the Language Arts Department at Spruce Mountain High School, disagrees.

Her students are active participants in the Local & Legendary: Maine in the Civil War project, jointly sponsored by Maine Humanities Council and Maine Historical Society. They are learning technology and research skills through historical work.

Bryant describes the goal of STEM learning as “combining imagination with technology to develop effective problem solvers,” but asks, “is always looking to the future the best way to prepare students for the real world and their future endeavors?”

At Spruce Mountain High School, some teachers believe that “the key to the future lies in the past.” They’ve partnered with the Washburn-Norlands Living History Center to offer a “Hands on History” class, where students research a local family’s involvement in the Civil War. Students are able to hold and examine artifacts from the Civil War era, from letters to photographs to swords. They digitize the documents and artifacts to include in the Maine Memory Network, thereby preserving them and sharing them with historians across the state. In researching these items, they gain a deeper understanding of their community and its place in the nation’s history.

Bryant and her students make it clear in this video that schools do not need to choose between STEM and the humanities—both can work towards the same educational goals.

See the Washburn Norlands Living History Center’s archived images.