August 17, 2017

6 Ways to Make a Fun and Interactive Junior Preservationist Workbook

Villa Finale is selling their junior preservation workbook in their museum shop. Credit: Villa Finale

Villa Finale's Junior Preservation Workbook.

Villa Finale, a National Trust Historic Site in San Antonio, Texas, recognizes that the younger generation already has a place in historic preservation.

“We believe it’s important to get kids to look at buildings and their environment in a different way, especially in historic neighborhoods,” explains Jane Lewis, executive director at Villa Finale.

To that end, Lewis worked with Sylvia Gonzalez, manager of collections and interpretation at the site, to publish “The Junior Preservationist Workbook,” which children in San Antonio can use to explore their neighborhood, identifying parts of historic structures and learning how their city’s historic fabric makes it a unique place to live.

Here, we have a few tips on how to formulate your own interactive workbook for burgeoning preservationists.

1. Determine your objectives.

What do you want your junior preservationists to learn from the workbook? Do you want them to learn more about different parts of a building? The history of their neighborhood? Why historic preservation is important? Villa Finale’s workbook asks questions that lets kids consider what matters to them in their neighborhood, and what they believe should be saved for future generations. Identifying a few objectives will help you focus the chapters and activities in the workbook.

2. Include a glossary.

A preservationist has to have a working knowledge of architectural terms, styles, dates, and construction practices, so include a glossary in the workbook paired with photos or sketches.

A closeup of an architectural detail like a cornice is a good visual for your junior preservationist. Credit: Villa Finale

Include photos of detail shots in the workbook.

3. Make the workbook active.

A workbook that encourages kids to walk around their neighborhood, draw, and write will keep them interested. Provide space for fill-in-the-blanks, empty boxes to draw in, and pages for them to attach photos they take with a camera.

4. Provide resources to discover their neighborhood’s history.

Include relevant URLs to their city's official website, library, and other resources for kids to consult. You could provide them a building to start with, like the school they attend, as an exercise. Ask an initial question, such as “when do you think your school was built?” and then provide clues. This will help kids learn to think critically, especially when conducting research.

5. Help them think like a preservationist.

A junior preservationist workbook can help kids look at their neighborhood in a creative way. Being a preservationist, after all, means you see the built environment differently.

Consider breaking your workbook into sections that start small and become gradual, all while teaching junior preservationists how to look at historic places critically.

Villa Finale's workbook, for example, begins with a section called "Collect." It asks their junior preservationists to collect sights and sounds in their neighborhood. You can include a checklist, pictures, and empty spaces for kids to fill out. This is a great introductory way to teach children to break down parts of their neighborhood, from buildings, to landscapes, and sounds.

This roofline contains a number of details perfect for a visual scavenger hunt. Credit: Villa Finale

Pictures like this one that include a variety of architectural details are great to include in the workbook.

6. Include opportunities for sleuthing.

After your junior preservationists have done a cursory examination of their neighborhood and the sights and sounds that make it unique (and historic), ask them to conduct their own study on a local landmark. This will encourage kids to learn how to inventory a building, a crucial element to nearly any preservation project.

Provide space for sketches, photos, and other documentation. Include survey questions for them to fill out. Villa Finale's workbook includes multiple choice questions that ask junior preservationists to identify the area of the city their landmark is located in, how they would describe the building’s personality, or what makes it look similar or different to other buildings. Questions that encourage them to think about the building process is important, too.

As they answer these questions, include blank spaces for them to document building details and other elements they notice.

By the time they've filled out the workbook, your junior preservationists will know more about the history of their neighborhood, different architectural styles and details, and, perhaps most importantly, why saving places matter.

If you would like a copy of Villa Finale's Junior Preservationist Workbook, you can buy it at the Villa Finale Museum Shop for $19.50.

Meghan White is a historic preservationist and a former assistant editor for Preservation magazine. She has a penchant for historic stables, absorbing stories of the past, and one day rehabilitating a Charleston single house.

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