Is it possible to present STEM education at a living history museum, a museum that re-creates life, culture and the peoples of more than 400 years ago?
Located 80 miles west of Jamestown — England’s first successful American Colony — Henricus Historical Park re-creates the 1611-1622 Citie of Henricus, England’s second successful American Colony, and the nearby Powhatan Indian village of Arrohateck. This living history museum lies on the banks of Virginia’s historic James River. With period buildings and technology and costumed Interpreters, Henricus re-creates the lives, times, events and well-known persons of this earliest era of American life.
The English came to settle in Virginia during the period of the European “Age of Exploration” while looking for economic expansion. This followed the Reformation, a social, scientific and political “Revolution” of the 15-1600s. New scientific understandings of the physical world and new inventions and technology helped make repeated long ocean voyages possible and helped in the creation of new settlements in the “New World.”
Henricus Historical Park provides age-appropriate elementary and secondary-level school programs that combine early American history with sciences, technology, engineering and mathematics: STEM Education. These programs follow early steps in what would eventually lead to the rise of today’s American economic system, communities, government and society.
Elementary students work with simple machines, biology and the environment in our Indian and Colonial programs. They use reproduction mapping, navigation and new or improved weather tools invented in the 16th and 17th centuries — the thermometer, wind gauge and barometer — to sail from England to America using only lines of latitude in “Mapping the James River” program.
Among other activities, secondary students use mathematical coordinate planes to match archaeological sites with their modern locations in our “Math and Mapping the James River” program. New scientific understandings such as Newton’s Laws of Physics — force, motion and energy — are made real to students by experimenting with better cannons, muskets and catapults in our “17th Century Sciences” program.
Modern sciences are introduced in our new program: “Cultures in Contact: Archaeology.” Students enhance archaeological excavation methods through biology, geology, human physical sciences and Dendrochronology. They then study artifacts and primary sources such as maps, pictures and books through a project- and problem-based learning process to guide them in their understanding of the past.
So yes, it is possible to provide STEM education at a living history museum — educational, interactive and FUN for students of all ages.
What else is upcoming for STEM education at Henricus Historical Park?
- The James River Wetlands Science Walk Way: Environmental, Ecological, Biological and Geological Sciences: science stations on a new walk way into the wetlands of the James River.
- From Seed to Sail: a 17th century river commerce site. Early tobacco agriculture, economics and trade.
- Sailing Technology in the Age of Exploration: navigation, shipboard living and the mathematics of supply and demand onboard a 17th century sailing ship. The full-scale reproduction ship Sea Lion will arrive this coming year.
- Technology and the Civil War: focus on Civil War-era technology and inventions.