HARPERS FERRY - The end may be approaching for history field trips consisting of students staring at an empty
meadow, old foundations, or a lone cannon.
A new, interactive, and dramatic tool in the teaching of history will engage a new generation in April as nearly 1,600 fourth- and fifth-grade students use the Time Trekker app on mobile devices to explore crucial periods of Civil War history through the first-person stories of historical figures who lived through it, as they walk through Harpers Ferry National Historical Park.
The new app, created by HeresMyStory.com, an educational development company that connects students with real-world locations through storytelling and games, uses historical figures, depicted in augmented reality-a nurse, a solider, a slave, a townsperson, and others who lived 150 years ago-to guide the schoolchildren through history, encouraging debate, decisions, and actions as the characters tell stories, ask for help, and give instructions.
Students work their way through three significant periods of Harpers Ferry's Civil War history:
John Brown's raid and aftermath in the experience called "Judging John Brown," citizens plunged into a war zone in "War Wounds," and the transition from slavery to freedom in "Freedom's Fight."
The mission of the educational program is to spark curiosity and a passion for self-learning and exploration. Students will find exciting new opportunities to learn, and share their insights and ideas.
Teachers will find a freshly responsive group of students, whose curiosity will spark into self-learning and exploration-at just the right age to make a lasting impression.
On April 6, 160 students explored the park using the educational app.
The beta version of the app was tested in October 2016 in the park. The Hagerstown Herald-Mail reported: "The students chased real characters, real people and real experiences," said Dennis Frye, Chief Historian at Harper's Ferry Historical Park. "They worked in groups of five, and that required collaboration, group dynamics, teamwork, and decision making. They were trying to see what worked and what didn't work."
HeresMyStory.com, LLC, has partnered with The Journey Through Hallowed Ground Partnership, Harpers Ferry National Historical Park, the Harpers Ferry Historical Association, and Jefferson County Public Schools on the development and success of this educational project.
The mission of the Journey Through Hallowed Ground is to promote and support civic engagement through history education, economic development through heritage tourism, and the preservation of cultural landscapes in one of the nation's most important historic regions.
The Journey is a 180-mile corridor from Gettysburg, PA through Maryland and Harpers Ferry, WV to Monticello in Charlottesville, VA. The region was placed on the National Trust for Historic Preservation's list of the 11 most endangered places in the United States in 2005, was declared by Congress as a National Heritage Area in 2008, and Route 15/20 was named a National Scenic Byway in 2009. The Journey includes 12 National Parks, nine presidential sites, 30 historic Main Street Communities, dozens of Civil War battlefields, and over 100 sites related to the fight for Civil Rights.
A video of students testing the beta version of the app last October can be found at heresmystory.com/about.