Teaching Students About their Local History with a Project

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A Lesson on Your Own Locale

This lesson includes a research paper on the local history and a historic landmark. In addition, students will make a “documentary” on their findings in small groups.

Material or Items needed: video camera and video editing software for computer

Individual Research Paper

Part 1: This is to be completed individually. Students need to write a research paper in the MLA format that includes the following:

  • Research of local history of town and county. This could include the founding fathers, land allotment, interesting events, famous people from the area, history of how it was settled, etc.
  • Choose one building or site to research separately. This should be a historical landmark or have historical relevance to the area.

Each section should be a minimum of a page. Pictures of the building or site should be included as well. There should be primary sources (research completed by interviewing experts from the area) included. A great place to find information on the town is the local historical society.

Involve Community Members

A class field trip to the local historical society is a great addition to this lesson. Most are within walking distance to the school or a short bus ride.

Many times, a curator or member of the historical society board will come to the classroom to talk to the students. Also, local historians are great primary sources for the students' research papers. Invite students to interview these older members of the community.

Small Cooperative Group Documentary

Part 2: Work in small groups of around three to complete a “documentary” on interesting places in the area. This will be taped on digital video cameras and edited on IMovie.

  • Include an introduction, stating who is involved and a brief summary of what the documentary will show.
  • Include footage around the site with a description of the site.
  • Include a conclusion, summarizing the information and tell where someone could gain additional information about the site.

This lesson can be a culminating project for students learning how to complete research and to write a paper. The documentary should be presented to the class. If local citizens were interviewed for the documentary, a nice touch would be to invite them to the presentation.


  • Author’s teaching experience.