Tests of American students reveal disturbing gaps in general historical knowledge, as well as an inability to understand the relevance of history to their lives today. Many students do not have a basic understanding of national or local histories, and there is a profound disconnect as to why these topics should matter to them at all. This is a concern to historic preservationists who struggle with how to better inform the world about the importance of preservation.
Authentic experiences with heritage resources from structures related to historic figures to places where important events occurred, and other sites where the past touches the present, are a great way to instill a sense of immediacy to history. In the effort to connect place and story for students, historic preservationists are an essential link in connecting the benefits of historic preservation to communities and the nation, and providing learning opportunities in the process.
The Advisory Council on Historic Preservation (ACHP) believes the best initial strategy for creating that link is for historic preservation organizations to reach out to their local schools and school districts. By building direct relationships with schools and enlisting the help of students, teachers, and administrators in efforts to meet existing preservation needs, all involved will benefit. One great way to do this is via service-learning.