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Springfield, the armory and the Civil War: Using local history resources to develop best practice field trips for middle school social studies students

Ann Barone, University of Massachusetts Amherst


This descriptive study identifies best practice for field trips for middle school social studies students, applies these principles in collaboration with the National Park Service at the Springfield (Massachusetts) Armory National Historic Site to offer a Civil War program to area students based on local documents and artifacts, and creates a model for other practitioners to develop local history programs. Based on the research, it describes elements of a successful field trip, defined as an effective learning experience which is fun and runs smoothly. The Civil War—Soldiers, Civilians and Armory Workers program was considered successful by the 736 middle school participants from urban, suburban, private and homeschool groups over three years. The basic program was modified for each group to address student needs and revised over time. Responses to the open-ended 3-2-1 Reflections measure were remarkably consistent across groups and years; participants considered the program successful. Participants reported learning about each major educational objective; longer activities were most often mentioned. Most respondents offered historical facts with very few errors. Most spontaneously offered positive comments while only 10% made negative remarks. Suggestions for improvement included having more and longer activities and less talking. Based on this research and the literature, models for best practice are presented for classroom teachers, for the Civil War program, and for historic sites. These each describe in detail the phases of effective field trips: (1) collaboration between teacher and site to set educational objectives, connect the setting and its resources to academic goals including state standards, and determine logistics; (2) classroom pre-trip activities to relate the trip to the curriculum and become familiar with activities; (3) during the field trip to engage in hands-on, authentic learning activities; and (4) post-trip activities to process what was learned. Recommendations for sites include offering one basic program tailored to individual needs, attending to volunteers, updating the program, and providing 21st century amenities. For participants, a successful field trip has activities that are hands-on, connected to curriculum, inquiry-based, authentic, set in the past, new, collaborative, multi-sensory, and creative; it also has good timing, passionate presenters, and welcoming facilities.

Subject Area

American history|Social studies education|Curriculum development

Recommended Citation

Barone, Ann, "Springfield, the armory and the Civil War: Using local history resources to develop best practice field trips for middle school social studies students" (2008). Doctoral Dissertations Available from Proquest. AAI3325149.