By Tatiana Birešová and Juraj Varga


The reality is that, today, students can find almost all information they need for their history lessons online. The confrontation with modern technologies forces the history teacher to think about using non-traditional teaching methods. Juraj and Tatiana believe that their Historical Workshops project can provide a solution, providing advice, suggestions and a method for using the public space in the teaching of history.

Introduction to the Practice

This teaching practice is part of a larger initiative on the development of Historical Workshops in the public space and was developed and published as part of the initiative ‘History teaching in the 21st century’ for the Department of Education at the Institute for the Study of Totalitarian Regimes in Prague (website in Czech). In essence the teaching practices takes the public space available to the teacher and students as a starting point, with focus both on the use of larger structures such as squares or smaller ones such as statues, specific buildings, or memorial plaques. An empty space can also be interesting:  perhaps there was a statue or a monument there in the past, or perhaps it served as an important place for social events. 

This specific workshop was designed for Košice, the second largest city of Slovakia, but the two authors point out that every city hides the potential for its “discovery” – whether large or small. The workshop should in other words be seen as a template or a proposal for a blueprint, providing inspiration for educators wanting to do something similar in their own environs. 

❝There are essentially two pathways. Either you know an interesting place in your city and you want to use it somehow for your workshop, and as a result you adapt the goal to this place, or on the contrary, you have an idea at the beginning of what you would like to achieve with the workshop and then you try to find places in the public space of the city that would suit you. Neither path is a priori correct and you might end up somewhere between these two approaches. 

Applying the Teaching Practice

Designing a workshop for the city of Košice, Juraj and Tatiana included five locations: the Monument to the soldiers of the Soviet Army, the Orthodox synagogue, the statue of Sándor Márai, the chapel of St. Michael and the statue of Francis II. Rákoczi. Below follows a short description of three of the locations and the author’s ideas and rationales for their inclusions in the tour. 

Statue of Francis II. Rákoczi

Francis II. Rákoczi is an important historical figure who is connected with the history of Košice. This very fact, but also that his statue is located in the city centre and next to the memorial house dedicated to him, played a role in the decision to choose this place for the needs of our workshop. The personality of Francis II. Rákoczi for the purposes of historical teaching hides several layers. It is associated with the anti-Habsburg uprisings, through which it is possible to interpret regional developments. One may also use its so-called secondary importance in explaining the nationality question of the 19th century.

Juraj and Tatiana chose to use the entire life story of Francis II. Rákoczi as a ‘window’ into the history of the 17th century – both regionally but also connections with world history. 

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