STEM Education at a Living History Museum

Henricus Historical Park

10/21/2016
EXPERIENTIAL LEARNING: Virginia
Margaret E. Carlini Director of Education, Henricus Historical Park

Henricus Historical Park has offered education programs to grades Pre-K – 12 for nearly 20 years.  Each program covers not only history and social studies, but also includes math, technology and sciences -- STEM Education.  Our newest programs meld the history of 17th century Virginia, with an understanding of the incredible changes in not only religion, education and politics, but in science and technology that took place some 400+ years ago in Europe; many of these changes helped make “the Age of Exploration” possible to the New World.

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Henricus Historical Park is a 9-acre living history museum located near Richmond on the James River.  Costumed Interpreters bring to life the second successful English colony – Henricus – and its neighbor, the Powhatan community of Arrohateck.  There are 16 re-created structures and other features – cannons, tobacco fields, domesticated animals, forge Indian longhouses and canoes – that are used in education programs.

STEM Programs at Henricus Historical Park:

Grades Pre-K – 5:

History Kids/Indian and Colonial; People of the River/Powhatan Indians;

Two Lives of Pocahontas; Success of the Citie/1611-22; Mapping the James River

These elementary-level programs, which take place primarily in our re-created villages, demonstrate how different cultures met their primary needs.  Students participate in activities using simple machines made from natural materials for farming, fishing, hunting, house building and tool making.  Mapping the James River, using period navigational tools teaches mapping skills used by early navigators and cartographers to reach the New World.  Students find direction, distance, time and speed as students move across the ocean and up the James River to Henricus.

Grades 4 – 10:

Math & Mapping the James River; 17th Century Sciences/Changing World;

17th Century Colonial Sciences/Citie Tour; Cultures in Contact/Archaeology

Secondary school programs focus on the tools and technology that made colonization possible.  Add government, religion, economics, education and cultural interactions and experience17th century society in three dimensions.

Math & Mapping the James River demonstrates how improved navigation tools (like the back staff to find latitude) and new weather tools (like the barometer and thermometer) could have improved exploration across the ocean.  The use of coordinate planes helps students today to find 400 year old site locations on modern maps.  The archaeological sciences -- Dendrochronology, physical anthropology, artifact analysis – are used in Cultures in Contact/Archaeology to help us re-create and interpret 17th century life. 

17th Century Sciences: New Directions (indoor program) and 17th Century Colonial Sciences: Citie Tour (site program) follow the evolution of science and technology in Europe.  Did these numerous inventions and “cutting edge” technology make it to 17th century Henricus?  Probably not; Henricus began as an outpost.  But knowledge and understanding of how the world works and improvements in tools and equipment might have helped.  A better understanding of kinetic energy (read Newton’s “new” Three Laws of Motion) came over with firearms and cannons.  This is demonstrated through actual musket firings.  Improvements in colonial medicine are seen in re-enacted Henricus leader, Sir Thomas Dale’s, use of “Martiall Laws”, which, among other things, enforced cleanliness practices in the colony. 

See the “newly discovered” Scientific Method in action as these colonists, 400 years ago and thousands of miles from their origins, experimented with new and old technologies and ideas and interacted with a new environment and different cultures, learning to survive and thrive in this new land.  “Success of the Citie,” would lead to eventual economic and political success and towards the building of a new country.

See a full list and description of ALL of our programs on our website, www.henricus.org

There is always something fun, exciting, educational and UNUSUAL going on at Henricus Historical Park in Chester Virginia.  Call us at 804-318-8797 for more information and to book our programs. 
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Issue 18.2 | Fall 2016

Southeast Education Network

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