Innovations in Historical Teaching: The History Harvest

AHA Session 5
Thursday, January 4, 2018: 1:30 PM-3:00 PM
Delaware Suite B (Marriott Wardman Park, Lobby Level)
William G. Thomas III, University of Nebraska
The Audience

Session Abstract

The History Harvest is an innovative, ground-breaking, hands-on, student-led, community-based approach to historical learning started at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln by Will Thomas and Patrick Jones. The History Harvest concept came together in the context of broader
discussions about undergraduate teaching, the so-called “crisis of the humanities” at U.S colleges and universities and the transformative possibilities of utilizing digital technologies to help spur creative new opportunities for historical teaching and learning. In short, Jones and Thomas were looking for ways to give students more hands-on opportunities with history, not merely to ‭study‬ it,
but also to create, preserve and share it. The goal was to create more chances for students to get out of the
classroom and into the community ‭with‬ history and to find more ways for students to
develop core skills, including media and technology skills, and to apply them to their work as students of history. The History Harvest project also emerged out of a loose set of beliefs: that our collective history is more diverse and multi-faceted than most people give credit for; a
recognition that most of this history is not found in archives, historical societies, museums or libraries, but
rather in the stories that ordinary people have to tell from their own experience and in the things – the
objects and artifacts – that people keep and collect to tell the story of their lives. The History Harvest, then,
is an invitation to local people to share their historical artifacts, and their stories, for inclusion in a set of federated
digital archives of what Thomas and Jones call the “people’s history.” As more and more “harvests” take place in
communities across the country, more and more materials are added to these digital archives, creating an ever-
expanding collection of one-of-a-kind digital resources for teachers, students and anyone else with an internet
connection. In the process, previously “hidden histories” begin to emerge and new connections established between the classroom and local communities. ‬‬

The History Harvest brings all of these elements together in a dynamic and
effective way and has been adapted successfully by a number of teachers in a variety of contexts, not only at the college and university undergraduate level, but also with graduate students and K-12 classes. Student response has been overwhelmingly positive, with participants reporting that the History Harvest approach was a “transformative” learning experience, “the best of my undergraduate career” and “the kind of innovative class that every department should be teaching.”

This session will share and explore the History Harvest concept, offer a variety of approaches to putting the History Harvest into practice in different learning contexts and share valuable lessons from three practitioners about successes and challenges associated with this type of innovative student-led, community-based teaching and learning.

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