The Texas Historical Commission (THC) partners to present Preserve America Youth Summits that enable middle and high school students to participate in activities associated with historic preservation and cultural conservation. During the 2017 Summit, THC Youth Education Specialists spoke with the students to find out what outreach activities would be appealing to them.
The students expressed interest in attending events that involved hands-on and visual events or demonstrations. These preferences apply to youth of all ages based on feedback from CHCs that incorporate youth focused activities in their outreach efforts. The most successful CHC youth programs create experiences that provide meaningful engagement for participants.
One challenge to youth involvement that CHCs should consider is that many Youth Summit students said that they were unfamiliar with the cultural or historic organizations in their areas. They suggested that history organizations should create youth-targeted advertisements on social media to familiarize young people with organizational missions and activities. For tips on Facebook use, check out this webpage.
Several CHCs already participate in youth-focused activities, so we provided a few examples below for your reference.
Real world conservation projects – helping CHCs with ongoing projects.
Harrison CHC involved a local Eagle Scout to refinish 10 faded markers throughout the county. The scout, along with two friends, cleaned the markers with CHC training, materials, and supervision. This type of experience is provided by several CHCs, reaching out to all types of youth groups––scouts, National Honor Society students, home school cooperatives, etc. Photo of Harrison CHC event below.
Providing “living history” presentations and experiences at historic locations.
McMullen CHC hosted "The South Texas September History Kickoff"––a living history symposium in which four school districts attended. Schools and CHC's within an hour's drive were invited. Replicated over three days, this symposium drew 350 students and adults, providing more than basic speaker-audience presentations.
As part of the day-long event, students attended sessions with a variety of local history topics, including a flintknapper explaining early Indian tools, an explanation of Spanish and Mexican contributions to south Texas ranching, and an interactive story associated with the Mier Expedition. Additionally, Texas Parks and Wildlife game wardens demonstrated the changing history of hunting and fishing from early pioneer survival to today's recreational pursuits.
Service or maintenance projects that benefit a historic site
Members of the Montgomery CHC Youth Advisory Board (YAB), along with a few parents, helped clean 100-year old tombstones in Conroe’s Oakwood Cemetery. This is one of many YAB events that are offered throughout the year. Events are designed to provide opportunities that promote volunteerism, service, and stewardship of historic resources.
Students from the Youth Summit provided additional ideas to diversify CHC youth programming.
- Designing youth-targeted advertising (digital or print) for local history- or preservation-related events and activities
- Developing web or mobile-based apps to engage youth in local history (scavenger hunts, tours, etc.)
- Assisting with exhibit design and installation, which can be placed in a county courthouse, local museum, school display cases, libraries, etc.
- Creating videos or social media posts about a historic place or person
For more information, read our 4-part youth outreach web series, especially Part II, which has several web resources for finding new and interesting ideas for engagement and partners for planning children’s events.