“Harvest of History” provides a wealth of information for students and teachers based on a theme we can all relate to – FOOD!
The website’s introduction sets up four questions to get you thinking:
* Where did your last meal come from?
* Who produced the food?
* What happened to it along the way?
* How did it get to your plate?
Using a virtual tour of the Farmers’ Museum, the website begins to explore these themes from both a historical prospective and a modern outlook.
The “clickable” map allows visitors to choose from any of the buildings in the village, including the barn, general store, blacksmith, pharmacy, printer, church, barnyard, school, and tavern. There are also opportunities to learn about a farm family and their fields, and a middle class home.
Using a variety of video clips, objects, and documents, “Harvest of History” helps visitors understand how a village produced food, how food production has changed over time, and how food and agriculture have shaped our history.
The website also features extensive resources for teachers that are clearly aligned with the New York State educational standards. The project had several pilot teachers, as well as advisors from museums and colleges throughout the country.
According to Megan Kirkpatrick, Manager of Statewide Programs at the New York State Historical Association and The Farmers’ Museum, “The Directors of Education at the Farmers’ Museum and the National Gardening Association conceived a project that brought agriculture to school children through social studies and science.” They were awarded a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities, a competitive grant program sponsored by the federal government. The staff decided to produce a website so any teacher, from anywhere, could download and use the curriculum.
The website itself was created and designed by Educational Web Adventures (Eduweb). The design works well – it is both entertaining and educational at the same time. The ability to zoom into a photo, object, or document was particularly impressive.
The website does an excellent job of making connections between contemporary life and the past. Each stop in the Farmers’ Museum brings the story right up to the present by interviewing modern day people. For example, after learning about the role of a 19th century general store, you can click on mid-20th century video clips that introduce the concept of the modern grocery store. The section concludes with a Wegman’s employee, who explains how large grocery chains stock their shelves.
Visitors can also compare how long it took to prepare dinner over the open hearth with today’s modern, pre-packaged, microwavable foods. As a series of photographs illustrates each step in the cooking process, a small clock shows the time elapsed. It took a full 3 hours to prepare a dinner over the fire, compared to less than 30 minutes today!
One feature that separates this website from the rest is the ability for visitors to make their own video! You can save pictures and movie clips from the virtual tour and edit them yourself.
“Harvest of History” helps students understand how food travels from farm to table in the past and in their own lives. As farming continues to disappear from our every day experience, it is more important than ever to remember our roots in rural America.