Historians say that Clark had an uncanny ability to transform the landscape into a two-dimensional representation, a skill that is easy to take for granted now that we’ve become so accustomed to having satellite images at our fingertips. You can read (or listen to) four different writers and historians briefly describe Clark’s remarkable cartographic skills here, on the PBS website. Students are currently reading Undaunted Courage, by Stephen Ambrose, whose comments are included on this page.
Unfortunately, hands-on activities like map-making are often considered too time-consuming and insufficiently rigorous for a college-preparatory high school history classroom. Consequently, history instruction at the high school level can be classroom-bound and textbook-heavy and, from the student perspective, dull.
At Conserve School, by contrast, we take it for granted that ”interesting” and “intellectual” go hand in hand.
Our “History of Wilderness Exploration” course has been designed by Conserve School History Teacher Michael Salat to engage students’ hearts, minds, bodies, and imaginations in the pursuit of historical understanding by blending three components:
1) Leadership studies, which impress the students with the courage, creativity, and ingenuity of major historical figures;
2) Challenging, thought-provoking non-fiction articles and books, which, like Undaunted Courage, are written for an educated adult audience and have been best-sellers and award-winners.
3) Hands-on activities like map-making or trail-building (this week’s activity), which help students imagine themselves within the historical setting and develop empathy for people from different times, places, and cultures.
One of the most common comments we see on the surveys that students fill out at the end of their Conserve semester is, “I had no idea that studying history could be so interesting! Now I like history!”
~ Mary Anna Thornton, Assistant Head of School