CLARKSTOWN, N.Y. -- Rich Donegan is immersed in this week's local history conference where 65 high school students from 11 countries will present their research on Rockland County history.
The 4th Annual John T. & Mary A. Grant High School conference Wednesday, March 2, is his first project since taking over as education coordinator for the Rockland County Historical Society.
After the conference, Donegan's focus will be on working with the museum's educators on revitalizing two integral programs, "Growing Up Lenape” and “Growing Up Blauvelt," Donegan said in a recent interview.
The programs teach students how the Lenape of Rockland County lived and worked and how people like the Blauvelt family would have worked and lived in 1830s Rockland County. "Our goal will be to carry these programs into County schools or to bring students into our History Center to do them," he said
Another focus is determining the best format for teaching people about county history in a "more interactive way."
Adults, for example, learn better in a lecture driven environment, while kids seem to prefer "experiential" or hands-on learning, he said.
"People usually only remember three to five things when they visit a museum, and they remember these things if the exhibit or docent somehow reached them in a way that really resonates with them. It’s tough because you can have a group of 20 people on a tour and try your best to read everybody and engage each one. You may have a strong connection with five people, while 10 others may be somewhat impressed with what you had to say, and the remaining five are bored out of their minds. You can see it. So I don’t think it’s so much about teaching history in a more interactive way, as it is about finding a way that works best for your audience," said Donegan.
Activities for kids, for instance, might include grinding corn into powder like the Lenape did so they can gain a sense for what daily life was like in the past and "appreciate modern conveniences."
The Society works with schools in a variety of ways. This week's history conference is one example.
"The work with the conference hopefully engages students in a bit more research that may prepare them for college or whatever else they may do after high school," he pointed out.
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