Breathing Life Through Local Memories: a community engagement PBL unit

Breathing Life Through Local Memories: a community engagement PBL unit

Our small-town museums are running out of resources. Large chunks of our collective memory as well as our honored memory-keepers, the local historian, are in danger of being lost forever. This means that we’re losing touch with our local, grassroots history at an alarming pace! And as we know, ‘Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.’ (George Santayana-1905). Some of our history includes tough realities. Some  of our history includes magnificent triumphs. Some of our history includes the everyday lives of perfectly ordinary people. And we want to remember it all: the good, the bad, and the daily details. So our community needs your help! 

Your challenge is to create a museum display (or other problem/solution) that would enhance the work already being done by your local museum, as well as build positive interest and energy around the museum.

Possible KADQ to use: 

How can we enhance the work already being done by our local museum of choice, as well as build positive interest and energy around the museum?


  • Choose a local museum that you might like to work with. Reach out to the director and curators. Visit the museum. Learn about their mission and hopes for their work. Consider their short-term and long-term goals. 
  • Seek ways that your group could get involved. What would/do they want/need? 
  • Ask if you could help generate learning and interest in the museum and its mission by creating a display, even if it’s only a temporary exhibit. 
  • You get to choose the topic and type of your display, but be sure it enhances the work of your chosen museum. Work with the curators and other experts in developing your ideas. 
  • Research the various ways you can bring history to life. What artifacts and information will you include? How can using a soundscape or interactive technology enhance the visitor experience and understanding of your work? 
  • Remember, this work has to be the highest quality you can muster. This isn’t a “school project” but is instead a community support, designed to 1) help the museum accomplish their mission; 2) help keep our local memories alive.

Options for taking the learning to the next level: 

  • Get a video production class to be  your documentarian of your experience. 
  • Combine grade levels for a shared learning experience.
  • Set up a display in your local museum, library, district office, bank/business or other public space.
  • Help students reconsider what “local community” means to your students. Is it within a 5 mile radius of your town? Your county? Your state? Your region? Or your nation? What do the words “local” and “community” mean in the context of your work?
  • Connect with 1 or more schools outside of your local area to do a comparison of museums and work in order to gather ideas for how to better help your museum. It’s not copying; it’s collaborating.

Taking the learning even further: 

We at ESSDACK love to see the work that you’re doing in your schools and communities. And we especially like to brag on those of you doing amazing things in your classrooms to the hundreds of thousands of educators and communities with whom we’re connected! Your work could be featured across the state, nation, and globe by winning a featured spot at ESSDACK’s student showcase this fall or spring.  

How to enter: 

  1. Each team will complete an application (details below) to be sent to ESSDACK where a team of experts will choose which groups will be featured. 
  2. Deadlines for application submission: Fall: November 15 and Spring: March 15
  3. The winning teams agree to travel to ESSDACK to set up their display between December 1 and December 10 for the winter showcase, or April 1 and April 10 for the spring showcase. 
  4. Follow the museum partnership guidelines highlighted above in the Breathing Life Through Local Memories project, as a minimum. All teams are encouraged to find a way to enhance and/or customize the work further, if they wish, keeping to the spirit of the challenge.
  5. Each school can submit only one display. You may choose to create several different displays in a classroom, but only one will be accepted into the ESSDACK showcase from each school.  

As part of your application, you will submit:

  • Website that explains your work you did, the partnerships between school/community/museum, the value to your community, the process that was used, and ideas for next steps;
    • The website will also include: 
      • 1 minute engaging video that highlights the work process, including the value it brings to your community;
      • Photo gallery of artifacts and students/community in action;
      • Any other type of evidence that shows growth, learning, and connections to our local memories.
  • Contact information for your team to include at least:
    • School name & location
    • Teacher name
    • Museum name & contact person and title
    • Title of your display
    • Website link & link to your 1 minute engaging video

Email your website link to me, Ginger Lewman by the Fall: November 15 and Spring: March 15 deadlines and your application will be complete! 

For the teacher: 

This project is suitable for elementary through high school. It’s the depth of independence and learning that may vary. You may choose to spend as much time on this with your students as you choose. We will open for showcase applications in December and April. 


How can we enhance the work already being done by our local museum of choice, as well as build positive interest and energy around the museum?

Content Connections:

  • Community engagement
  • Kansas (or your state’s) History (or other core connection, based on type of museum selected)
  • Writing, Listening, Speaking
  • AV and website skills 
  • Digital Citizenship


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Written by GingerLewman

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