The Summer 2015 Student Historians have been on a touring frenzy over the past couple of weeks. We’ve been on tours, talked about tours, and given tours. We toured the New-York Historical Society, the American Museum of Natural History, and even traversed the busy streets of Lower Manhattan. We practiced our own tours highlighting the N-YHS’s art and artifacts, and finally delivered all our hard work to visiting teens! Here are some highlights:
The Student Historians crossed West 77th Street and visited the American Museum of Natural History (AMNH). We learned about Jurassic Park’s accuracies and inaccuracies, the natural adaptations of marine life, and the difference between meteorites and meteors. Our tour guides were college students in the AMNH’s Museum Education and Employment Program (MEEP), and one of them was even a former Student Historian at the N-YHS! Our fantastic guides answered all our questions about the sciences and tour-giving.
Licensed NYC tour guide, high school teacher, and history buff, Mr. Roper, guided the Student Historians through the busy streets of Lower Manhattan. Starting in Bowling Green and ending in Chinatown, we touched New York City’s oldest fence (installed in 1771), visited the location of America’s first synagogue (it’s now a parking lot), considered Alexander Hamilton and his role in American history at his gravestone in the Trinity Church cemetery, payed our respects to the African Burial Ground, and learned more about many other historical landmarks. Mr. Roper wanted to prove New York City was more historically significance than its rival: Boston. His boundless energy, humor, and passion did just that.
We all know that practice makes perfect. In order to give the best possible tours to visiting teens, the Student Historians worked with staff in the N-YHS’s education department. We learned from Allyson Schettino, Manager of School Programs, about how to guide visitors through a conversation about historical artifacts. Student Historians observed the object, supporting their ideas with evidence. “I know it’s a hairbrush because it has a handle and bristles!” Through our discussion, we learned about a Civil War-era toiletry box and its prominent owner. Later, we worked with Daniel De Santis, Manager of Visual Arts Programs, to interpret paintings at the N-YHS. The Student Historians made observations, including “It’s a cubist painting!” “The trees look like gems!” “It’s an urban setting!” We ultimately learned about artist Abraham Manievich and his intent to paint the Bronx from an immigrant’s perspective. These experiences provided the Student Historians with a framework to deliver their inquiry-based tours.
And at long last, the Student Historians finally had a chance to present all their hard work! Teens from the Opportunity Network Fellows program visited the N-YHS, eager to learn more about the Museum and what we’ve been up to. Student Historians led teens from the Opportunity Network through the DiMenna Children’s Museum, New York and the American Experience, The Hirschfeld Century, Freedom Journey 1965, and Art as Activism. Student Historians asked open-ended questions, prompted dialogue, and helped our visiting teens interpret New York City’s social and political activist history. We’re excited to give more tours to visiting teen groups in the coming weeks!