2019 – Winterset 7th Graders Study Historic Preservation

Teacher Jim Heithoff, who teaches 7th grade Social Studies in the Winterset Junior High School, conducted a short unit on Historic Preservation in September 2019. He asked Jared McDonald, Director of the Madison County Historical Complex, and Linda Smith, from the Madison County Historic Preservation Commission, to help plan the activities and be present in the classroom.

Day One

The six 7th grade classes (approximately 120 students) learned seven values that Historic Preservation brings to a community. They were then shown five active Madison County preservation projects and given resources needed to accomplish them – volunteers, experts, researchers, photographers, grant writers, etc. Then the students had to apply these limited resources to the projects they felt needed them the most. They learned that resources are limited and it takes compromise and patience to accomplish all the projects.

Day Two

The classroom moved outside for a walking tour. The students in all six classes took their turn for a field trip around Winterset, with Mr. McDonald as their guide. The bus took the group down West Court Avenue, where they heard the story of some of the stately homes there. In a loop through the Winterset City Park, they learned about the historic bridges, shelters, the Bennett cabin., and more Students left the bus at Monumental Park and, in a three-block walk, learned about that park, Carver Park, the Winterset Façade project, our historic Courthouse, and the oldest stone and oldest brick buildings on the square. They looked over the renovation at The Livery and even met a worker onsite, tuckpointing the brick. Their last stop was the George Stout Story Book Sculpture where Mr. Heithoff related this to the student’s earlier study of the Monuments Men.

Day Three

The students were given a homework assignment to rate their top three Madison County preservation projects out of the 16 photos and facts presented. Back in class, they were placed in small groups with students who choose the same project. They then made a poster to explain why they choose that project and which of the seven historic preservation values, learned on day one, that it most exemplified. Next the students presented their posters to their class. Their last activity was to choose which of the seven values they felt should be considered the most important when the Madison County Historic Preservation Commission prioritizes historic preservation projects. Those results are below.

The Seven Values of History
(adapted from historyrelevance.com)

The students ended their study of historic preservation by voting for the value they felt was the most important for the Madison County Historic Preservation Commission to consider as they help facilitate and evaluate various projects. The total votes received for each and a sample of their reasoning is given below.

  1. Identity
    History helps a person to understand who they are both individually and as a group. People begin to understand their place in time and discover the stories of their families, community and nation.

Sample of 9 student responses: “We need to remember the stories of our families and the past.” “So the next generation can remember their route.” “Knowing people’s history might make people want to learn more about themselves.”

  1. Critical Thinking
    History teaches vital skills. Historical thinking requires a person to understand a historical event in relation to the time and place it happened. To think like a historian means you must find evidence to support your arguments and take into account multiple points of view.

Sample of 7 student responses: “We need to understand history.” “Shows people what it was like in that time and place.”

  1. Vibrant (spirited) Communities
    A place becomes a community when history is passed down through family stories, traditions, and local events. This passed-down history leads to discussion about our roles and responsibilities in the community. History is the foundation for strong, vibrant communities.

Sample of 11 student responses: “Important because traditions are what bond a family.” “So that your community will benefit from things you do.” “We already are a strong, vibrant community because our history is being passed down.”

  1. Economic Development Communities with museums and other historical centers and events attract talent, tourism revenue, enhance business development, and strengthen local economies.

Sample of 13 student responses: “Brings money to our town.” “Helps our town earn money for other things.” “Is how our community grows.” “Attracting tourists would allow money to go to buildings and other historic stuff”

  1. Engaged Citizens
    History not only helps us learn about the past, but it also inspires citizens to become engaged in our future. Many issues that communities face today are connected to issues we had in our past as well. By learning about the past, we can become better informed and more engaged citizens and this can lead to effective solutions for community issues.

Sample of 18 student responses: “Engaged citizens help solve problems that we might have in the future with ones in the past.” “People who are volunteering are learning and also helping people.” “If citizens become inspired by the past and engaged by the future, they will be willing to help rebuild these monuments.”

  1. Leadership
    History provides today’s leaders with role models and provides inspiration for those future leaders when they face challenges of their own.

Sample of 6 student responses: “History provides examples for future leaders since it is very important that people know what to do.” “Someone needs to take a stand to tell the people that these places are important and need to be saved.” 

  1. Legacy
    History, saved and preserved, is the foundation for future generations. Historical knowledge is crucial to protecting democracy. By preserving documents, artifacts, and images, future generation have a foundation on which to build the community.

Sample of 54 student responses (nearly half of all votes): “Our history is the story that we will leave for our descendants and it is important to remember.” “It is important because it represents a lot of different things about the community and how Madison County started.” “Preservation of history is key to knowing how we lived and how to improve.”

2015-2016 – Winterset 7th Graders Research the
Underground Railroad

During the 2015-2016 school year, adult volunteers worked within the Winterset Community School District. Teaming with 7th grade Social Studies teacher, Jim Heithoff, these volunteers contributed local Underground Railroad information and instructed interested students on the general skills needed for historic research.

Student - Jim Linda media center
Teacher Jim Heitoff with volunteer and student

Comments by Mr. Heithoff

“Every year our 7th grade students participate in the National History Day program to help develop historical research skills and a love for history. This year Linda Smith, Brenda Hollingsworth and Jared McDonald worked with several of our students on their projects about the Underground Railroad.”

“Our students attended a full-day local Underground Railroad conference as part of the Preserve Iowa Summit held in June, 2015. During the school year, the volunteers provided a presentation and exercise in our classroomStudent and Linda Smith meeting in Jr. High Media Center during their lunch period.  Later, the students attended a research workshop at the Madison Country Historical Complex where they learned to research in Madison County’s history books, view local newspapers online, and use the Madison County genealogical website. The students also enjoyed working with this team during their study halls – learning to read plat maps and locating a major route that the Freedom Seekers (fugitive slaves) took through Madison County. In addition, the team is planning a bus tour for the students to a portion of the route that the students previously mapped.  They will have the opportunity to walk in the same steps taken by the courageous people they learned about on this journey.”

“For me as a teacher, it has been a pleasure to work with this team. They truly are dedicated to bringing the history of Madison County and the Underground Railroad alive for our students and have played a key part in helping these students achieve the goals of developing excellent historical research skills and, most importantly, a love for history!”

How may we help you?

Please contact us if you are a teacher or school administrator within Madison County and would like information on how we could integrate Madison County history, including the Underground Railroad, into your classroom.

Media Coverage

Winterset Madisonian Article: Local Students learn about Underground RR

The Winterset Citizen Blog post: Weekend in Winterset, Oct. 14-16