360 Gives: Latah County Historical Society delivers local history to schools

History is the key to the future for the Latah County Historical Society, the nonprofit charity chosen for Inland 360’s Art of Giving.

In the interest of giving back to the arts this holiday season, we asked readers to nominate area charities making a difference in our communities for the arts, culture and/or kids. Using local history to engage people of all ages in new ways, the Latah County Historical Society was chosen for 2017.

The society is in the midst of developing a new program for youth in Latah County that would help schools teach local history in a multi-dimensional way.

“History is relevant,” said Dulce Kersting-Lark, the society’s executive director. “Our mission is to build good citizens, strong communities and satisfying lives. If you feel that you’re part of our local history narrative, then you’re more likely to be a good community member. You feel like you have something at stake.”

The challenge:

Nationwide schools have shifted their focus to STEM coursework, science, technology, engineering and math. This has meant less emphasis on social studies, civics and history, said Kersting-Lark, but a deep understanding of these subjects is critical.

“The reason the founding fathers were such advocates of public education is that it was the only way to produce an informed and engaged citizenry.”

After being approached by several teachers wanting to provide local history lessons in their classrooms, the society began developing a program to augment Latah County fourth graders’ Idaho history studies.

Latah County has a diverse cultural topography, said Kersting-Lark. There’s a company logging town, mining and agriculture.There are inventions and people that made a difference.

“You can learn a lot about the American West by studying what’s in your backyard.”

The plan:

Public school teachers often rely on textbooks, but there is no textbook for local history. The society is creating one that lives and breaths.

Work began a year ago with a grant from the Moscow Giving Circle which funded a summer intern to collect materials. The next step is to create printed materials to offer to Latah County classrooms, said Kersting-Lark. This will cost several hundred dollars. The curriculum also includes digital content and access to archival objects. The society wants to be able to offer these materials to classrooms next fall.

It also aims to bring history to life by helping rural Latah County schools pay for field trips to its historic McConnell Mansion.

The society does not charge schools for tours, the barrier is the cost of transportation, Kersting-Lark said. A school bus scholarship fund was created to help.

“Fifty to $75 makes a difference for one school. It doesn’t cover 100 percent of the cost, but it makes it a more realistic possibility,” she said.

Schools coming from afar often maximize the trip by visiting several locations in Moscow besides the museum, she said.

How to give:

Donations for the society’s K-12 initiative can be made online at www.latahcountyhistoricalsociety.org/donate. They can also be mailed to the society at 327 E. Second St., Moscow, ID, 83843. All donations are tax deductible and eligible for the Idaho Education Tax Credit. Receipts will be mailed to donors.

Kersting-Lark also encourages people to consider joining the society.

Historical societies often live with the stigma that you have to be a history buff or the descendant of a pioneer to join, she said, which is not at all true.

“New people are always moving in and always bringing new ideas.”

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