Daily Archives: March 20, 2009

Picturing the Past

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Can we teach history in a way that really engages students’ imaginations? How to make best use of outstanding historical books for young readers as well as primary sources? Join award-winning authors and fellow educators as we explore ways to help young people form their own memorable pictures of the past!

The above quote is from the brochure describing “Picturing the Past,” a superb conference at the JFK Presidential Library and Museum in Boston I had the great fortune to be part of this Tuesday.  Sam Rubin, Esther Kohn, and other staff members did a truly outstanding job designing, planning, and running this event.   I was honored to be in the company of children’s book creators Walter Dean Myers, Ellen Levine, Wendell Minor, and Martin W. Sandler and follow educators Myra Zarnowski, Rhonda Clevenson, Mary Kelleher, Jessie Gerson-Nieder and Trevor Wrankmore.

The day before the conference some of us were taken on a tour of the JFK Presidential Birthplace. I had been joking beforehand that every time I saw the words “presidential birthplace” I would think of a log cabin (a bit too much Lincoln centennial perhaps?), but now that I’ve been I will no more. This house was indeed where Kennedy was born, but the family moved when he was three. In 1967 the Kennedy family bought back the house and Rose Kennedy worked to restore it as she remembered it in 1917.  So it is a fascinating melange of her memories (as opposed to any sort of historical verisimilitude) her memorializing of her slain son, and something of what life was like in 1917 Boston.  Absolutely fascinating. That evening we enjoyed a lovely dinner at the Lineage Restaurant in Brookline (and I should say the butterscotch pudding is as good as all the reviews say it is).

The conference itself was, as I wrote above, superbly planned and managed.  I enjoyed the sessions I was able to attend, the museum itself which is completely engrossing, and our private tours of the Hemingway Collection and another room for the Kennedys.  The space, designed by I. M. Pei, is extraordinary, facing out into the harbor.  I thought it was pretty cool that I got to do my workshop in the Mural Room.  It has the mural that was originally surrounding the White House pool. Later it was turned into a press room.  But the mural is still there and I enjoyed having it around me as I spoke about the way I teach history.

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Filed under Children's Literature, History, Teaching