How the Jamestown Skeletons Can Help Kids Love History

Rather than being a dry, dead subject, history is very much alive, current, and today.

Of course, discovering history’s treasures may take hundreds or even thousands of years, yet, the deeper archaeologists dig in the ground and researchers delve into archives and our technologies advance in sophistication, the more hidden secrets of the past are coming to light. A case in point: the Jamestown skeletons that were discovered buried in the historic 1608 church at Jamestown, Virginia. Or before this, the unearthing of King Richard III’s remains found under a parking lot in Leicester, England.

Discoveries like these are exciting because they bring to life people of long ago that we’ve only been able to read about in history books or see in paintings. But what if your child finds history a big bore? The solution is to help your child make personal connections to people who lived in another time and place. The following are a few ways you can help make the past more personal:

  • Explore history as seen through your family. On the next rainy day, break out your family pictures and wedding albums. You should have lots to discuss with your child—and hopefully some good laughs—as you point out family members and friends, hairstyles, fashions, and background details that are different from today.
  • Conduct a family oral history project. Interview family members—the older the better—and record their stories. Collect them in a book of remembrances or use the information to start a family tree. As you learn more from each family member, add branches. You might even want to look at genealogical websites or census and cemetery records to learn more.
  • Visit historic sites and landmarks. From coast to coast, our nation offers invaluable historic sites and landmarks that you and your children can visit. These family friendly places often include special programs for kids, including seeing ongoing excavations at Jamestown and reenactments of the Civil War and WWII.
  • Become an amateur archaeologist. It might take a little digging (pun intended), but searching out websites—and local libraries, museums, and parks—can reveal opportunities for kids to learn about archeology. Museum bookstores and gift shops also offer games, kits, books, and videos for all ages.
  • Look for local and national news connected to history. Stories in the national news about the latest historic discoveries are great conversation starters. Plus, your hometown paper can be a resource for history in your own backyard.
  • Above all, focus on the narrative side of history. The common theme among all these tips is the power of good stories. Narrative descriptions enliven dry facts and dates and help kids engage. Biographies of historical figures, nonfiction books, biographical movies, and historical fiction can make the personal side of history come to life and draw the past a little closer to your child.

Featured Image – sodai gomi / CC by 2.0

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