The National Park Service and the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation have agreed to partner on youth projects on the Star-Spangled Banner National Historic Trail. This initiative will seek to connect youth to historic places through service learning. Fort McHenry will host the pilot project for this service-learning approach; an approach intended to be duplicated elsewhere along the trail.
In January, eighth-graders from The Crossroads School will begin a self-directed program based at the Fort. Crossroads is a Baltimore City public charter school operated by the Living Classrooms Foundation. The students will learn about Baltimore’s role in the Chesapeake Campaign of the War of 1812. They’ll work with rangers and interpreters at Fort McHenry and the trail. They’ll get out on the water to see the Fort as Francis Scott Key saw it. And they will help the National Park Service craft a star-spangled experience that resonates with kids; that engages kids in the long arc of history told in their front yards, where they live.
The students will develop a product for visitors to the Star Spangled Banner Trail, specifically for visitors of middle school age. Their peer-to-peer project may be a video podcast, or a mobile application, or a form of mapping or costumed interpretation. And it will be ready in June, in time for OpSail Baltimore.
Using local heritage resources, the Crossroads charter school students will serve their communities and the trail, and connect with important stories in American history told in Baltimore.
At the same time, the ACHP is working with the USS Constitution Museum and a local school in Boston on a similar project. During the school year this spring, the Baltimore students and the Boston students will talk with each other and learn from each other as they develop their projects. This distance learning component will broaden the scope of experience for kids from both cities.
This hands-on type of applied learning and engagement in community service will serve as a template for further programs connecting youth to preservation and appreciation of historic places along the 300 miles of the Star-Spangled Banner Trail. Next fall, the National Park Service and the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation will roll out the next phase of this youth initiative on the Star Spangled Banner Trail, with another school and another trail partner.
During the bicentennial period and beyond, trail visitors of a certain age will benefit from the work that their peers from The Crossroads School did for them.