Henricus Historical Park is located 80 miles west of colonial-era Jamestown along the historic James River. It consists of the re-created 1611 – 22 community of the Citie of Henricus (an outpost of Jamestown) and the nearby Powhatan Indian community of Arrohateck.
Through costumed interpretation and re-created buildings, tools and cultural activities, we serve as a 17th century living history site for both the general public and for school students.
How do we re-create the times, the events, the culture and the physical layout of this time period? Our interpreters and educators study what primary sources are available from that time period – both described, written and drawn. Period paintings, maps, journals, letters, etc. are perused to help us re-create a period nearly 400 years ago at the very earliest time in American history.
We provide not only school programs for students, but in-school (or distance learning) consultation with students and workshops for teachers regarding the historical information and primary sources that students can use to create projects that help explain life 400 years ago. Using such general themes as cultural comparison and contrasts, levels of technology, natural resources, government and economics, students can create a better understanding of their past and of how it may affect their lives today.
Students receive primary source document lists – including 1585 watercolor drawings by Englishman John White – which detail early Indian life and community. Although the paintings reveal Indian life as seen through the eyes of an Englishman, they still reveal details of how they farmed, what their houses looked like, what kind of tools and weapons they used, how they dressed, etc. As the Indians of this era did not have a written language the paintings become the start of a valuable historic resource. Books like the Jamestown Narratives: Eyewitness Accounts of the Virginia Colony provides period letters, directives and journal writings by and to the English colonists during this era. Maps that show the environment and geography include the 1607 Captain John Smith map of the Chesapeake Bay and the Indian communities living along its attendant rivers. Resources like these plus the archaeology of the area helps to provide “primary” information for students to resolve questions like: what was life like for an Indian or English child in the 17th century? What did they eat and how did they prepare it; how did they live in the environment along the river and what natural resources did they have; what was their education like; what technology and tools did they use?
We then help students design a project based upon a question or a problem to solve. These projects can include a museum-style exhibit, a play, a mockup of an early community, or perhaps a poem. Henricus Historical Park works with enquiry-based learning and provides materials and consulting for not only a hands-on and 3-D educational program but help with projects that lead to a deeper understanding of the past and also of the present.
Arkansas State University
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