Primary Sources » Fieldwork
"I teach at an alternative middle school for students with behavioral disturbances and learning disabilities.
I often have a hard time getting students interested and engaged in learning activities. With help from Project Local, I was able to develop a history project that addressed the needs of my student population. Starting with the field trip was a great idea because it stimulated their interest in the subject. It made the project real to them. Letting students come up with their own research questions at the site gave them ownership of the project in a way they don’t normally
have." David Aronofsky*, 8th grade, Somerville
The towns of Winthrop, Somerville, Medford and Revere—like towns throughout the
country—are home to various sites of historic interest: the Royal House in Medford is the site of the only slave quarters still standing north of the Mason Dixon line. Historic sections of Revere Beach and the Winthrop Resorts serve as a window onto the growth of cities and leisure culture at the turn of the twentieth century. War memorials in Somerville document both the patriotic service of Somerville soldiers and the human costs of war.
While each of these sites could be the focus of a traditional field trip—where students are led by tour guides through the site—Project LOCAL has worked with teachers and historic societies to transform the traditional field trip into something more interactive. Following the lead of educational expert Stephen Levy, we call this approach
"field work." Fieldwork is a more interactive process where tour guides, teachers, and historic societies design experiences that allow students the chance to be detectives and discover some of their local history on their own.
Examples of Fieldwork
[Note: The movie files are large, and may require a few minutes to
As part of our end-of-year event in 2006, we worked with tour guides at the Royal House in Medford to develop a model of fieldwork in action. We asked tour guides to be stationed in different rooms of the house and to each adopt a different teaching strategy.
In the parlor, for example, we set up a "gallery walk" where visitors were given time to tour the room on their own, respond to prompts, and imagine the life of a slave-holding family; on the porch, we held a discussion around a slave petition; and in an upstairs bedroom we asked visitors to examine an inventory of the original room’s contents to determine whether or not the room was once a bedroom for slaves.
Unlike a traditional tour where a guide primarily lectures, these experiences encouraged visitors to examine evidence and develop their own interpretations.