Austin mom Megan Coalson was fielding her six-year-old daughter Fiona’s volcano questions when the pair uncovered a surprise. “We did some research and found out Austin has an extinct volcano, ‘Pilot Knob,’ near the airport!” she says. All at once, local history became super interesting.
“Anytime we can connect students with real experiences, that makes history so much more meaningful,” says Jessica Wheeler Saum, 2022 Arkansas Teacher of the Year. And exploring the history of their own town not only gives kids an exciting gateway to the past, but also instills pride. “It makes kids own a piece of who they are and where they live,” says Saum, who teaches special education at Stagecoach Elementary in Cabot, Arkansas.
Even little learners can gain a lot through hometown history. “When I’m teaching toddlers and preschoolers, there’s what happened today, maybe what happened yesterday, and everything before that is dinosaurs,” says Carrie Heflin, early education specialist at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History. “But you could say, ‘Hey, remember yesterday when we were talking about volcanoes and how much you love them? Did you know there’s a volcano right here in our town?’ That’s a great access point.”