Happy Birthday, Abe!

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This is the 201st anniversary of Abraham Lincoln’s birth and you’re probably celebrating it by anticipating Valentine’s Day with your students. Monday will be the official Presidents’ Day celebration with the usual day off or institute or something along those lines. “When I was a kid” in the middle of the last century, when there were far fewer school holidays. I seem to remember having both Washington and Lincoln’s birthday off. In any event, lest Abe fade into ancient history here in the Land of Lincoln, the state of Illinois erected the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and museum a few years ago. I finally managed a visit there last spring during our state-wide student showcase for legislators. Wow, was I impressed! I didn’t think my state was capable of putting together such a great, multimedia learning experience.

There is an almost 180 degree theater that immerses you in Lincoln’s life and times, and seems to be narrated by an onstage host. In another theater you feel like you are in the back room archives visiting with a real librarian/archivist who makes history come alive through the words and relics of the Civil War era; then magically turns out to be those words and relics himself. Finally, and most “simply’ considering the other experiences, you walk through a TV control room where the late Tim Russert is hosting a look at the television commercials that might have played out during Lincoln’s run for the presidency. What a fantastic way for students (and any citizen) to understand the moods of the day and compare them to the political ads and issues we have now! That, of course, is my ulterior motive for this post. Even if you can take your students to experience something like the Lincoln museum, why not indulge in some anachronicity?  Let them create their own news broadcasts, interviews and historical recreations to make the past live and achieve a richer level of understanding.

And happy birthday to my younger sister and fellow grandparent who always claimed we were off for her birthday.

Photo: Paul Fuqua. “Lincoln, Abraham.” unitedstreaming: http://streaming.discoveryeducation.com

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