A New Book From a Master History Teacher

No one has thought harder and more creatively about the craft of teaching history than James Percoco. He has been my teacher over the past fifteen years through a steady stream of publications that bring his teaching philosophy and classroom activities to the rest of us. I have used his books and other classroom resources to expand my own teaching repertoire, but his work has also helped me to think about what it means to teach this subject and why it is so important that we do so.

Jim’s area of expertise is in the area of Place-Based learning. He has made it his primary goal to connect students to historic sites through class trips and internships at museums and other institutions. His course is essentially an introduction to pubic history and this is all happening on the high school level.

I highly recommend Jim’s last book, Summers With Lincoln: Looking for the Man in the Monuments, in which he sets off on a summer trip with a group of students to explore monuments and other commemorative sites devoted to Abraham Lincoln.

But it is his new book that I am truly excited about. Take the Journey: Teaching American History Through Place-Based Learning explores how teachers can introduce their students to historic sites along The Journey Through Hallowed Ground, which includes such places as Gettysburg and Jefferson’s home at Monticello.

It includes:

  • Practical and easy-to-implement lessons
  • Classroom-tested materials
  • Specific directions for employing place-based best practices in the classroom
  • Ways to meet state standards without sacrificing teacher creativity or hands-on learning
  • Lists of resources and primary source materials

This book will be helpful to all history teachers, even for those of you who don’t live near this part of the country. You can apply all of these lessons and suggestions to historic sites in your neck of the woods.

For me, this book could not have come at a better time since I have been thinking about putting something similar together for a wide range of historic sites devoted to the Civil War and Reconstruction. Jim’s book will certainly serve as a helpful model.

Finally, I was honored to have Jim agree to write an essay for my forthcoming edited collection, Interpreting the Civil War at Historic Sites and Museums. I wanted to include an essay that looked forward to the next generation of public historians. Given Jim’s work in this area he agreed to write a piece on how teachers can partner with museums and historic sites to develop student internships.

Jim is the kind of history teacher that every student should be lucky enough to have at least once. Congratulations to someone I consider to be both a mentor and now a friend.

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