Bringing history to life by leaving classrooms & textbooks behind

2012 Discovery AwardFor many of us history class meant memorizing people (usually white guys) and places (usually unknown) to be plotted on a timeline and forgotten about as soon as the obligatory data we stuffed into our brain was dumped out and onto a test never to be remembered again.

Fortunately, innovative educators are finding a way to change that for today’s youth with programs like the Lowell Milken Center’s "Celebrating Unsung Heroes Who Changed the World." 4th grade teacher Shannon Garrison helped make history meaningful for her students by learning about unsung historical hero, Ralph Lazo. Shannon worked with students and teachers across grades to produce a performance about teenager Ralph Lazo's powerful act of courage to voluntarily join his friends as a resident of the internment camp at Manzanar during WWII.

These students aren’t learning about the heros we read about in textbooks. They are learning history by studying unsung heroes, just like those that might exist in their schools or communites or today. They are discovering who they were through investigation of primary sources such as letters and, in this case, an oral history interview with a man who was in the Japanese internment camps with Ralph Lazo. Students are also given the opportunity to get out of the classroom and school and visit historical sites and museums. This gives learning a personal touch and provides knowledge through seeing real artifacts and meeting real people that provide context to students who can now make meaning of their learning.  

In Ms. Garrison’s case, the children also performed what they learned which helps internalize their newly discovered knowledge.  You can learn about the project in the following video.

The center, named and founded by education philanthropist Lowell Milken has worked with thousands of schools and hundreds of thousands of students around the world. The Center provides assistance and support to schools free of charge. Sound like the way you may want to teach history next year? Visit
to get involved.
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