Activity Ideas


The Community: A Laboratory for Learning. The community, whether urban or rural, holds a trove of teaching resources for the imaginative and innovative teacher. Within this laboratory for learning the students can explore firsthand the basic aspects of nearly every phase of living, and as they grow to maturity they can employ the ideas and concepts gained in community studies to understand the differences and likenesses in all cultures. The more students can learn about their own community, through discovery and involvement, the greater will be their comprehension of lifestyles elsewhere. Furthermore, it is pedagogically sound to begin with what is at hand, what is familiar, what is known; and then proceed to the remote, to the unfamiliar, to the unknown.

Using community resources in the classroom necessitates knowing what is available. An organized resource inventory, therefore, should include the following:

PEOPLE: citizens who know business conditions, public officials, officers of organizations, early residents, parents, people who have traveled widely, people who have a knowledge of the cultural affairs--past and present--of the community, people who are artists, musicians and writers, business and professional persons, workers in various industries, retired people, and people with interesting hobbies.

PLACES: libraries, county courthouses, museums, public and private institutions, industrial plants, business firms, farms and ranches.

THINGS: antiques, cultural artifacts, wearing apparel, historic markers, historic houses and sites, and significant architectural structures.

RECORDS AND PUBLISHED MATERIALS: records of schools and governmental agencies, churches, clubs and civic organizations, municipal records, records of historical societies, records of councils of social agencies, census reports, local directories, local or county histories, county records, newspapers, diaries, business and personal correspondence, maps, local laws and statutes, photographs, chambers of commerce pamphlets, folders of travel agencies, air, railroad and bus lines, trade associations, and publishing houses.

Chapter Activities: First Steps to Discovery and Involvement. Chapter activities, involving the collection, use, and preservation of the foregoing community materials, form the crux of the chapter experience. The following list is not definitive, as these activities represent only a few of the successful projects developed by various chapters. The key to the program’s wide appeal is that each chapter is autonomous and free to develop the projects and activities that are best suited to local needs and resources. This list, therefore, only suggests a beginning. Improvise as you proceed. Many pleasant and rewarding experiences await those who aid young people in becoming aware of their heritage.

Community Resource File. As many chapter activities are based on the inventory and collecting process, a card or electronic index should be kept on each source of community material and information. This index will eventually become a catalogue of all community historical resources, serving all who are interested in local history, and will be the first step toward developing interesting projects and activities. A suggested form to document and organize your resources can be found in the Resource Section of this handbook.

Activity 1. Collecting Historical Materials. The community historical inventory--also called "Attic Survey," and "Search for Our Past"--is a highly intriguing project that involves the entire chapter and frequently unearths a wealth of material in the community. Subsequently this material may be borrowed when needed for exhibition, as classroom teaching tools, or for an artifact fair or a temporary museum show. The general plan for the inventory is as follows:

First, the sponsor explains to the chapter members the need to preserve all forms of material culture, as cultural artifacts reveal the life pattern of those persons who possessed and used them.

Second, advance publicity through the local media and civic organizations announces the inventory and emphasizes that the students will not remove the artifacts, but they only want to locate and identify historically significant materials (artifacts, letters, photographs, wearing apparel, etc.). A public announcement might request that individuals make contact with the chapter to aid in the process of discovery. It should also be announced that at some future date the teacher, the chapter, or the local museum may ask to borrow some of these materials for public exhibition.

Third, once the community has been informed of the forthcoming inventory, the sponsor instructs the students or an inventory committee to contact individuals, businesses, and organizations which they know through their community or family connections. The goal is to survey as many homes, businesses, and organizations as possible through the student’s network of contacts, while ensuring student safety. The sponsor should explain carefully to the chapter members how they are to introduce themselves and explain to the community member the significance of the survey.

Fourth, a community resource form, is prepared for each item/person/place identified in the survey. It is important to maintain a paper copy of these records to safeguard this important information even if an electronic index is kept for primary use.

Activity 2. Collecting Diaries, Family Correspondence, and Business Records. (Items in Activity 2 may be included in the collections program outlined in Activity 1.) In their search for historical material, students should be made aware of the historical importance of diaries, personal correspondence, and business records. These often provide valuable insights into community life and reveal a facet of history that is found nowhere else. Diaries, family correspondence, and records of a local business have been the basis of some excellent articles published in the Texas Historian. (SEE the How-To Section for, A Student’s Guide to Historical Research and Writing.)

Activity 3. Collecting Traditional Family Recipes. An interesting approach to cultural and ethnic history is having the chapter members collect traditional recipes and record the history of the contributing families. Several chapters have printed and sold recipe collections as successful money-raising projects. (SEE the How-To Section for, Chapter Fund-Raising Projects.)

Activity 4. Collecting and Documenting Old Photographs. Photographs are interesting and valuable sources of historical information and provide an authentic record of how people looked, lived, worked, and played. An excellent chapter project, and one that will generate much interest and enthusiasm, is building a photographic collection. All possible information about the photograph should be secured from the donor and/or lender: the date, location, names of the people in the photograph, event, etc. This should be typed on a sheet of paper, and attached to the back of the photograph. Additional information may be gathered at a public "Photo Identification Party." These events have proven highly successful. Not only is much new information provided, but the publicity generated by the event usually attracts additional gifts of photographs. One method of preserving such photos is to scan them into digital images that can then be used for a variety of purposes with permission of the owner. Be sure to scan images at a minimum of 300 dpi for the best quality and use.

Activity 5. Recording Contemporary History with Photographs. Too often teachers and students become so concerned with collecting information about the past that they overlook the need to preserve the record of the present. As an extension of the project to build a collection of old photographs related to community history, chapter members should bring their collection up-to-date by photographing their community as it is, today. A good approach is to select a single topic--transportation, industry, recreation, commercial and residential buildings, holiday celebrations, civic and political meetings, or education--and develop it before going on to another topic. Good documentation and a comprehensive index enhances the value of any photographic collection. Such projects often lead to inquiries about how things appeared in the past, thus excellent research projects. Black and white photographs (8" x 10" glossy prints are best) possess the greatest lasting quality. It is also important to preserve the negatives. For a similar activity to so serve as a starting point, see the Save Our History Educator’s Manual in the Resource Section.

Activity 6. Recording Oral History. Although much state and national history has been recorded in published studies, oral recollections add a personal dimension to history not found in these sources. For example, social and economic interpretations of the Great Depression are readily available to the history student, yet only through personal recollections can its impact on the individual be determined. Also, the importance of oral history grows with the increased use of the telephone, and most especially since few people take the time to keep diaries or write their memoirs. Thus, when an individual dies, much local history is lost. Opportunities exist for these oral histories to be part of larger projects like the Veterans History Project discussed in the Other Activities, Contests and Awards segment. Be sure to investigate the precise guidelines for these outside sponsored projects.

Therefore, an important segment of local history can be preserved by chapter members who go into the community with tape recorders and collect the personal recollections of local citizens. To achieve maximum yield from this activity, the oral history program should follow some definite theme or topic. For example, some general topics for consideration are the local impact of the Great Depression, World Wars I and II, the changing highway system, disappearance of the railroad, the coming of air transportation, the reasons members of various minority groups came to Texas and settled in a particular community, and the impact of rural electrification on the local lifestyle. All oral history dates should be double checked for authenticity. (SEE the How-To Section for Interview Guidelines and the Resource Section for Fundamentals of Oral History from the Texas Historical Commission.) For a similar activity to so serve as a starting point, see the Save Our History Educator's Manual in the Resource Section.

Activity 7. Making Gravestone Rubbings and Cemetery Analyses. Data gathered from old cemeteries can provide much valuable information about the history of a community and the origin of its inhabitants. After compiling and analyzing headstone inscriptions, students raise specific questions. For example, why did so many people die in November and December 1918? In this specific instance, it probably was the result of the great 1918 influenza epidemic. The topic may be expanded further: what state, national, and especially international conditions contributed to this catastrophe? What preventative measures available now, could have lessened the impact of the epidemic? And what economic conditions removed great numbers of people from their familiar habitats? (This is using cemetery data within an inquiry teaching concept.) Other events such as Indian depredations, storms, epidemics, and local catastrophes may have caused simultaneous multiple deaths, which provide clues to local events of historical importance. Also studies of life expectancy (both male and female), child mortality, and the ethnic makeup of the community (based on last name spellings) within a given time frame are other spin-off benefits of a cemetery analysis.

Making the actual gravestone rubbing is another benefit of this chapter activity. The reasons are twofold: 1) rubbing highlights data that otherwise could not be deciphered on a deteriorating gravestone; and 2) gravestone rubbings, when mounted on heavy poster board, make interesting displays at a history fair or temporary museum show. The rubbing technique is as follows:

A large sheet of light colored paper (such as butcher paper) is attached to the face of the stone by using freezer tape or electrician's plastic tape. The paper is then rubbed with a piece of crayon, held flat. The high contrast of the rubbing increases the legibility of the inscriptions. A more consistent quality will result if the students rub horizontally (parallel with the lines of inscription) with uniform pressure. Various colored crayons may be used.

Additional resources for historic cemeteries and preservation can be found in the Preservation Guidelines Series prepared by the Texas Historical Commission located in the Resource Section.

Activity 8. Researching the Origin of Local Place Names. An organized study of the origin of local place names--streets, towns, communities, sites, rivers, creeks, mountains, schools, and public buildings--frequently reveals interesting facts about a community. While the designations frequently reveal something of the history of a region, they also reflect the ideals, beliefs, people, and events that were uppermost in the minds of those who selected the names. Some examples follow: Stillhouse Creek, Possum Kingdom Dam, Blackjack Community, Bell School House, Striker Creek, Waxahachie, Burro Mountain, Dead Man's Canyon, Sixshooter Junction, Skinout Mountain, Tarzana, Dime Box, Montgomery Gardens Road, Starr Avenue, Alto, Marathon, Raguet Street, Balcones Drive, and Castroville. Learning the origin ofthese names is a meaningful chapter activity, as they convey a sense of reality to students. Place name studies provide an interesting introduction to the ethnic groups that settled a community. Additional resources can be found in the Handbook of Texas, The Atlas of Historic Sites from the Texas Historical Commission and in the Guidelines for Historical Research and Official Markers found in the Resource Section.

Activity 9. Developing a Local Architecture Survey and Inventory. A study of local architecture adds a non-verbal dimension to classroom history instruction, while sharpening young people's awareness of the social, cultural, political, economic, geographic, religious, and ethnic influences reflected in buildings. More specifically, this chapter activity focuses on buildings and building designs as artifacts of cultural change, in addition to their local historical significance. Buildings are indeed meaningful "footnotes to history" and constitute the visual profile of every community, town, and city.

Chapter members should first learn the basic architectural styles and their histories so they will know what to look for in the survey and inventory. Next, they should inventory important buildings in the community and prepare a record of each, noting location, style of architecture, unique features, condition, historic significance (if any), list of occupants, published references to the building (newspapers, magazines, books, official records, etc.), and the floor plan. The buildings should be thoroughly documented, inside and out, with photographs. With the growing concern for preserving historic buildings for both aesthetic and historical reasons, chapter members can make an important contribution through this activity. In addition they can present slide shows on local architecture, and write articles for local newspapers on familiar structures that have played interesting roles in the community's history.

Activity 10. Researching and Writing Family History. Researching and writing family history is both a meaningful and rewarding classroom assignment, as well as a chapter activity. The benefits are multiple: first, in many cases the chapter members "discover" for the first time the backgrounds of their parents and grandparents; second, by learning something about their education, former occupations, former places of residence, reasons for immigrating to their present locale, citing interesting people they have known, and interesting events in which they have participated, young people see themselves as a part of a great chain of being never before realized, while recognizing their indebtedness to previous generations; and third, the teacher/sponsor gains a better insight into the personal background of the student/chapter members, while gaining a better knowledge of their ability to gather, arrange, and interpret data. Many chapter sponsors introduce this activity early in the school year for apparent reasons. In many cases the initial activity is expanded into a major research project for the writing contest (SEE the How-To Section for, A Student’s Guide to Historical Research and Writing and the Resource Section for Guidelines to Historical Research.) A variety of organizations, including the Texas State Genealogical Society, offer resources to assist with genealogical research.

Student-written family histories are excellent introductory projects to historical research and writing. Through the use of familiar and readily available materials, students learn the basic historiographic concepts. Also, in developing these introductory papers the students frequently discover family papers, correspondence, and diaries worthy of further research and writing. SUGGESTION: emphasize the difference between genealogy and family history. While the former is largely lineage and chronology, the latter is developed within a broader historical context. See the Resource Section for Guidelines for Researching Military History, if needed.

Activity 11. Folkways Collection Program. Disappearing pioneer skills and traditions are a significant part of regional heritage and offer a perceptive insight into the social evolution of a community. Collecting traditional recipes, offers an interesting approach to cultural and ethnic history. Also, audio-visual records of disappearing rural skills should be high priority chapter projects: shoeing horses, blacksmithing, hand-shearing sheep, making windmill repairs, making adobe bricks, making syrup, hand-weaving fishing nets, cultivating land with horse-drawn implements, furniture making, and hand-splitting shingles and boards. Each region has its individual pioneer traditions, therefore, emphasize local and regional uniqueness. Taped interviews and/or an explanatory narration, plus a photographic record of pioneer skills will help preserve that activity for the future.

Activity 12. Using the Southwestern Historical Quarterly Within A Critical Teaching-Learning Concept. The Quarterly, which contains outstanding scholarship on Texas and Southwestern history, may be used in a wide variety of teaching concepts. Back issues of the Quarterly can be found and searched at Critical discussion of the articles sharpens the student's perception of historiographic excellence, stimulates his or her interest in creative writing, while broadening his or her knowledge of history. Discussion sessions (lab sessions or chapter meetings) may focus on some of the following points:

  1. Ask the students to give a critical overview of the assigned articles.
  2. Do you feel the author gave adequate coverage of the topic? Are there noticeable omissions?
  3. Is the topic treated as local history, or has the author projected the topic in a broad national and international context?
  4. Does the author treat the topic with candor or is there an apparent interpretive bias?
  5. What is the significance of this study?
  6. Has the author made a worthy contribution to history?
  7. Has the author "padded" his treatment of the subjects or does the material justify the length?
  8. Relating this topic to your home community, can you suggest additional research topics that should be developed?
  9. Based on the scope and interpretive content of the article, give an imaginary character sketch of the author's economic status, religion, political affiliation, ethnic origin, personal interests, home state, etc.
  10. Write a critical review of the articles.

Activity 13. Using the Texas Historian within a Critical Teaching-Learning Concept. One innovative Junior Historian sponsor developed a group reading-discussion plan that enables students to gain maximum benefit from the Texas Historian articles. Meeting in small groups, varying in size from twelve to twenty chapter members, the students come prepared to discuss the Historian articles. The discussions focus on content, writing style, interest level, type of research, and the various research sources used by the student writers.

Before reading each issue, students are instructed to be prepared to discuss the following points:

  1. Why was the topic chosen? Was it appealing?
  2. Was the title appropriate?
  3. Was the article interesting? Why or why not?
  4. What was the introductory sentence or thesis statement?
  5. Could the introductory paragraph be improved? How?
  6. Does paragraph development follow the logical theme or topic of the paper?
  7. What was the concluding sentence?
  8. Could the conclusion be improved? How?
  9. What sources were used to complete the research?
  10. Was the topic thoroughly researched?
  11. What other sources could have been located for research?
  12. Where could a student obtain these sources of information?
  13. How would a student locate additional sources of information?

Hopefully the discussions will stimulate members to enter the Junior Historian writing contest.

Activity 14. Local History Publications. As students collect records, research their projects, and gather information on the history of their community, they will find information of interest to others, particularly on their own region. To make the findings better known and to gain local support, the students should be encouraged to write up their research and activities in essay form. The best of these essays may then be published in magazine form. Students find it exciting to have their names and works in print. A number of chapters have published their own magazine. (SEE the How-To Section for, Chapter Fund Raising Projects.)

Activity 15. Researching Local Economic history. Whether your community is urban or rural, it has an economic history. There is no better approach to studying economics, or put more cogently, how we live, then to examine the economic decisions that shaped our own lives.

  1. Why did Dexter die and Gainesville prosper? They are only 12 miles apart?
  2. The man who opened the first filling station in your town may very well be still living. Why did he change, "filling station" to "service station", and then to "car care center?"
  3. Why did the bank in your community not fail (or fail) during the Great Depression? The banker or bank employees may still be living. Ask them.

See the Resource Section for Guidelines to Historical Research.

Activity 16. Presenting a School Assembly Programs for Patriotic Holidays or Anniversaries. Researching, writing, and presenting a school assembly program for patriotic holidays or anniversaries is an excellent way to get publicity for your chapter and their activities.

Some of the more important holidays are:
Martin Luther King Jr.’s Birthday 3 rd Monday in January
President’s Day 3 rd Monday in February
STAR (State of Texas Anniversary Remembrance) Day Febraury 19
Texas Independence Day March 2
Sam Houston's Birthday March 2
San Jacinto Day April 21
Lyndon Baines Johnson Day August 27
Patriots’ Day September 11
National Anthem Day September 14
Citizenship or Constitution Day September 17
Columbus Day October 12
Stephen F. Austin's Birthday November 3
Veterans Day November 11
Special recognition weeks or months:
Celebrate Freedom Week* Week in which November 11 appears
Texas History Month* March
Women’s History Month March
African-American History Month February
Hispanic Heritage Month September 15-October 15
Native American Heritage Month November

*Note: Celebrate Freedom Week and Texas History Month are mandated by public laws HB 1776 and HB 294, respectively. Alternate dates are possible for Freedom Week.

Activity 17. Researching and Writing Your School's History. Assuming that your school is not "shiny new," embark on a project to research and write its history. Research school records, old newspapers from the school and community, and (especially) the memories of past administrators, teachers and alumni. See the Resource Section for Guidelines to Historical Research.

Activity 18. Maintaining a Junior Historian Showcase or Bulletin Board. A Junior Historian Showcase or Bulletin board is an excellent way to call attention to both your club program and to the history of your community.

Activity 19. Creating an Interpretive Website. Using technology to share the history of one’s school, a community landmark or local event is a wonderful way to share an individual or chapter’s research with a broader audience. Members can research and visually document historic locations in their community and post that information online. This is a skill which many students already possess and is easy to learn. Some students have incorporated Geographic Information System technology to create interactive maps of historic sites in their communities such as historic buildings, schools, or historic markers. Chapters are encouraged to create websites to highlight their own chapter or school’s history. Creating such sites can be both fun and informative.

Note: Be sure to follow all local policies regarding student Internet access and student work/photo posting. Also, be sure to follow all copyright laws with regard to images used that were not taken by students or sponsors. Instruct the students on the value of such intellectual property. In addition, be sure you have a use of photo release on file for each member who may appear in photos you post online or send to TSHA for online or print publication. This form can be included in initial membership forms filled out at the beginning of the year. A sample photo release is available in the Resource Section.

Activity 20. Participation in the Texas History Quiz. The Texas State Historical Association sponsors periodic Texas History Quizzes students may enter. Answers to these quizzes are found in the Handbook of Texas Online. These quizzes make wonderful ways for students to learn to use the Handbook, while earning a chance to win prizes.


The school-community cooperative projects developed within the Junior Historian chapter framework yield multiple benefits. For example, the community, through a museum, the local historical society, the County Historical Commission, and the civic and cultural organizations benefit from the organized effort of the chapter members and their teacher-sponsors. The chapter members benefit, from the experience, responsibility, and community recognition accorded them by their adult colleagues in the community. Together, through cooperative effort, the school, the community, the chapter members, and history, all benefit through a well-planned meshing of goals, activities, and effort. Cooperation is indeed the "name of the game."

Activity 21. Field Trips to Destinations of Historic Significance. Educational study trips into the community and beyond are an excellent way to motivate and keep students engaged. A well planned educational trip can be both a learning and personally memorable experience. Students learn best when they get to experience the history of an event with all of their senses. The ability to discuss the way in which the Battle of San Jacinto unfolded while walking the battlefield is as difficult an experience to match as discussing mission life while standing in the cramped quarters of Mission San Jose. Field trips show students that learning history firsthand is not only an academic activity but one that provides the opportunity for social enjoyment. To plan an effective trip use the Study Trip Checklist found in the Resource Section. Engaging students in the planning process helps build leadership, problem-solving, and decision-making skills.

Activity 22. Project: Community Service. Community service is the one area in which chapter members help weld a meaningful bond between the school and the community. After school, on weekends, during the summer, and on holidays, chapter members aid the local museum, the historical society, and the County Historical Commission in many ways: students serve as guides and museum aides, work at sales counters, dust and sweep, catalogue artifacts, type index cards, address envelopes, and help prepare and deliver newsletters. At local meetings they present programs, serve as hosts and hostesses, and register guests, In the community they also do research that requires special "leg-work," survey historic buildings, conduct historic tours, and help raise money to preserve historic sites. In this specific area, student potential is virtually unlimited. See the Resource Section for sample letters for making contact and the Texas Historical Commission at for helpful links.

Activity 23. The History Fair or National History Day Program. The National History Day program provides Junior Historians with the option of participating in a national program that encourages young people to explore a historical subject related to an annual theme. Junior Historians in grades 6-12 may, if they chose to follow the national guidelines, enter one of the more than twenty regional history fairs held across Texas in February and March. Students who win a first or second place at one of the regional fairs advance to Texas History Day, which is held in late April. The first and second place winners at Texas History Day are then eligible to compete at the national contest which is held at the University of Maryland in mid-June. A fair for other types of historical entries or some sort of historical showcase of classroom products could also be conducted. However, the National History Day program has a proven structure, resources, high academic focus, and the motivational factor of academic competition and awards that should be considered when planning the direction of such an event.

Many chapters are instrumental in organizing the school level fair as part of this program. Chapter members can assist with key logistical tasks that need to be done to insure a successful fair including: processing entry information, scheduling, room set up, directional assistance, messengers, and promotion. Participation in National History Day could also be considered for recognition within the chapter as a motivational tool.

Activity 24. Adopt-a-Building Program. Chapters are encouraged to participate in the Adopt-a-Building Program described in the Awards and Recognition Section. The research conducted for this program is valuable in learning the location of a wide variety of documents and resources in the local community. In some cases the research has been the beginning basis of research to obtain an Official Historical Marker from the Texas Historical Commission discussed in the Official Marker Guidelines found in the Resource Section. This is best accomplished when working with the local heritage society or County Historical Commission. For a similar activity to so serve as a starting point, see the Save Our History Educator’s Manual in the Resource Section.

Activity 25. The Folk Fair. The folk fair focuses on the culture, customs, food, dress, and products of various nationality groups represented in the community. The folk fair usually includes exhibits showing the contributions of these various ethnic and national groups--food, clothing, artifacts, folk music, folk dances, and pictures of individuals representative of each group, with biographical sketches of each. This activity offers unlimited opportunities for community cooperation.

Activity 26. Produce Historical Tour Guidebooks. In some chapters the members have researched, designed, illustrated, and written local historical guide books. In most cases this was done in cooperation with the local chamber of commerce, historical society, and the museum, which provided the funding. However, some chapters have undertaken this as a fund raising project. Printing costs and potential sales should be carefully considered before students attempt to fund these projects alone. Consider coordinating your efforts with your local Main Street Program if your community is involved. For a listing of cities involved in the program contact the Texas Historical Commission. For a similar activity to serve as a starting point, see the Save Our History Educator’s Manual in the Resource Section.

Activity 27. Building Historical Exhibit Units. Designing and building historical display units is a self-motivating activity, requiring a wide range of skills and involving a maximum number of students. Display units containing models, dioramas, artifact collections, photographs, sketches, and other objects may be exhibited in schools, public libraries, local museums, courthouses, post offices, banks, or in store windows. These historical exhibit units usually form the core of the history fair and folk fair exhibits. (SEE the How-To Section for, Preparing Historical Exhibits.)

Activity 28. Junior Historian Radio-Television Programs. A number of chapters have been provided time on local radio and television stations to present programs on community history. This is a public service that demonstrates the chapter's contribution to the area's cultural life, while sharpening the community's awareness of its heritage. Chapters have also made use of in-school public address and video systems to make similar public service announcements.

Activity 29. Producing Historical Pamphlets. A wide range of topics are appropriate for a series of pamphlets: a general history of the community, early settlers, local industry, business institutions, transportation, agriculture, ranching, newspapers, schools, churches, and general points of historical interest. Local business firms frequently sponsor chapter-produced history awareness promotional projects in return for advertising space. (One chapter received a regular stipend from a bank for a series of illustrated ads on local history.) Much of this research can be developed either in the history class or in preparation for a writing contest paper. (SEE the How-To Section for, A Student's Guide to Historical Research and Writing.) Some chapters produce their own pamphlets in cooperation with the school/district print shop.

Activity 30. Newspaper Articles and Chapter Columns. Junior Historian chapters have arranged with a local newspaper to publish a series of student-written articles on local history. Many were writing contest papers and some had appeared in the Texas Historian. The benefits from this activity are multiple. The articles stimulate wide interest in community history, and letters to the newspaper frequently suggest additional topics with offers of information and photographs. As a result, the chapters received many rare photographs that shed new light on the community's early history. The newspaper also benefits from increased readership generated by the students' literary efforts.

Activity 31. Student-Produced Videos. Student-produced videos dramatizing some aspect of local history provide an opportunity to involve many students in a project that requires a wide variety of skills and talents (research, writing, acting, directing, lighting, props, costumes, makeup, photography, video editing, etc.). With this activity the students can view tangible results of their efforts, which may also be shared with the community by exhibiting their presentations to service clubs, historical societies, museums, and educational groups. Collections of recorded oral histories also work well as source material for such projects. Videos can be reproduced at relatively low cost and distributed to increase historical awareness. The ability to tell a story visually is a motivating factor, as is the desire of young people to work with the cameras and software.

Activity 32. Conservation Projects. Relations between the school and the community are strengthened when chapter members help organize and participate in community restoration, beautification, and conservation projects. For a similar activity to serve as a starting point, see the Save Our History Educator’s Manual in the Resource Section.

Activity 33. Save Our History Grants and Awards The Save our History program, sponsored by the History Channel, offers grants and recognition awards for preservation projects completed through partnerships with local preservation groups. The grants are open to teachers who make use of the Save Our History Educator’s Manual found in the Resource Section and who partner with a preservation organization. The TSHA is willing to serve as that partner with you if there is none locally. Awards are available to recognize outstanding preservation projects and do not require you to have received a grant or have partner. Many of the activities in the Activities Section qualify for these grants and awards. For more information about these opportunities, see the Educator’s Manual in the Resource Section or visit


Many organizations offer activities, contests, and awards which are history oriented and in which chapters or members might want to participate. See the list and contact information below:

Texas Quiz Show -Sponsored by TSHA offers an exciting game show formatted experience for middle school students. This multi-level contest based on the Handbook of Texas online and the Texas Almanac allows students to display their knowledge of all things Texan. For more information see

DRT Texas History Essay Contest-Sponsored by the Daughters of the Republic of Texas organization which offers modest cash prizes to 4th and 7th grade students for winning entries in their essay contest on an annually changing topic. For more information see

SRT Texas History Essay Contest-Sponsored by the Sons of the Republic of Texas organization which offers sizable scholarships to high school seniors for winning entries in their essay contest on an annually changing topic. For more information see

Friends of the Governor's Mansion Presentation Contest-Sponsored by the Friends of the Governor's Mansion organization which offers awards for winning PowerPoint presentation entries on local history by high school students. For more information see

Veterans History Project-Sponsored by the Library of Congress is an effort to capture and preserve the story of America’s veterans. Students conduct and process oral history interviews prior to submitting them to the Library of Congress for permanent archival preservation. This ties in well with Activity #6. Detailed instructions are provided at

Project Citizen-Sponsored in Texas by Law Focused Education, Incorporated and the State Bar of Texas encourages students to research and prepare action plans for public policy issues. The possible connections between historic roots of social problems, preservation of historic places, and public policy decisions is endless. For more information see

Patriot’s Pen Writing Contest-Sponsored by the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) offers monetary recognition for outstanding writing on an annual changing theme. The entry deadline is in mid-fall. For more information contact your local VFW post or see

Barbara Jordan Essay Contest-Sponsored by the University of Texas offers monetary awards for outstanding writing on a variety of issues. This essay contest is open to high school students statewide and has a spring deadline. For more information see

Hatton W. Sumners Editorial Contest-Sponsored by the Hatton W. Sumners Foundation and Law Focused Education, Inc. offers scholarships for outstanding editorials written by tenth through twelfth graders. For more information see

Texas History Day T-Shirt Design Contest-Use your creative skills to create a design to be used on this years Texas History Day t-shirt. Monetary prizes are awarded in addition to the artistic recognition. See the Texas History Day website for additional information.

Adopt-a-Highway Program. The Texas Department of Highways and Public Transportation and the Keep Texas Beautiful Council jointly sponsor the "Adopt-a-Highway" program. This program along with the highly successful "Don't Mess With Texas" campaign aim to attract the public's attention to the epidemic level of littering along Texas highways.

Junior Historians can help in litter prevention and cleanup by participating in the Adopt-a-Highway program. Groups agree to clean up a one or two mile stretch of roadway near their community. The adopting organization has the following responsibilities to: 1) develop a functional plan that will influence and encourage the public to improve the appearance of their adopted highway; 2) plan for a general cleanup at least twice a year; 3) assist the Highway Department in securing media coverage for the program; and 4) coordinate with Department's maintenance foreman and project coordinator to carry out the plan.

The Highway Department in return will: 1) furnish and erect two highway signs indicating the section of highway under adoption and the organization responsible; 2) furnish manpower and equipment necessary to aid with general clean ups; 3) conduct media coverage to inform the public of the program; and 4) provide assistance from a maintenance foreman and project coordinator in carrying out the overall plan. The Highway Department will also provide safety vests to all volunteers and post traffic control signs during cleanups. Chapters interested in participating in the program should visit for more information.

visit the mytsha forums to participate

View these posts and more when you register your free MyTSHA account.

Call for Papers: Texas Center for Working-Class Studies Events, Symposia, and Workshops
Hi all! You may be interested in this call for papers I received from the Texas Center for Working-Class Studies at Collin College...

Katy Jennings' Ride Scholarly Research Request
I'm doing research on Catherine Jennings Lockwood, specifically the incident known as "Katy Jennings' Ride." Her father was Gordon C. Jennings, the oldest man to die at the Alamo...

Texas Constitution of 1836 Co-Author- Elisha Pease? Ask a Historian
The TSHA profile of Elisha Marshall Pease states that he wrote part of the Texas Constitution although he was only a 24 year-old assistant secretary (not elected). I cannot find any other mention of this authorship work by Pease in other credible research about the credited Constution authors...