Interactive Learning at the Ronald Reagan Library and Museum

The most recent episode of This American Life on NPR focused on “Kid Politics.” A portion of this show focused on children learning about various monumental moments in United States politics. Included in this discussion of historical politics was a look at students interacting with the Ronald Reagan Library and Museum.

The Reagan Library has an interesting facility called the “Discovery Center.” This Center focuses on providing visiting children with a hands on history and political lesson. While visiting the Center children reenact the process Reagan and the United States underwent prior to becoming involved in military action in Grenada in 1983.

The appealing portion of this reenactment is that children are given a basic script to follow, however ultimately they decide what course of action should be taken. If a group of students select a course of action which Regan did not take a video appears which explains what actually happened. The video clips reinforce historical fact, but the choice factor is key to engaging children in reenactment.

It’s great to see an interactive, nontraditional approach to teaching children political history. This unique approach to history education not only about the history of Grenada and operation Urgent Fury, but it also introduces children to political processes and controversy.

History in the Making.

Following the recent election of Barack Obama, The Smithsonian in conjunction with the National Museum of African American History and Culture, has taken steps to persevere items from Obama’s campaign. The museum has suggested that it intends to recreate one of the field offices from the campaign in a future exhibit.

I think that this was a very proactive decision by the Smithsonian. The election of an African American president was both a monumental and historic event in the history of the United States. And the immediate decision by the Smithsonian to create an exhibit around this election suggests an understanding that history was indeed in the making during the Obama campaign. Not only does the immediate collection of potential artifacts suggest an understanding of the historical significance but it suggests a desire to represent the past in a truly authentic way. As the CBC story suggests, the Smithsonian has collected items such as whiteboards, strategy boards election maps etc. All of which could have been reproduced to some degree or perhaps collected after the fact, but the Smithsonian took the immediate initiative to collect all these seemingly insignificant items, which suggests a larger significance of the exhibit and the election itself.