Juraj and Tatiana have identified several steps for educators wanting to establish a historical workshop in the public space. At the beginning, it is important to choose the place where the workshop will be held and to set clear goals or learning objectives.
The aim of the workshop may be to present a certain historical period, to deepen knowledge through alternative teaching methods, to repeat a certain subject matter, or to present a different view of history than the one presented in textbooks. What is important is that the goal you set should be tailored to your chosen locations.
In the process of selecting locations, in addition to finding and studying relevant literature and sources, it is advisable to contact local institutions that could have additional information for the project. These include local archives, institutes, libraries, or associations. It is also a good idea to find out if, for example, there is research or a project done at the local university. Addressing local institutions is beneficial from several points of view: you will get a lot of information about the place, you will deepen your knowledge of the historical events that took place and in the process, you will likely also make connections with interested individuals, many of whom you can subsequently ask for help and advice in hosting your workshop.
A workshop in the public space can zoom in on a single space or align several stops along a route. If you decide on the second option, i.e. you choose several places, it is important that when compiling the route, you make sure that the individual places connect to each other logically, content-wise, and didactically. The correct order of places (and activities there) will support the final goal of the given workshop. Each place should make sense on its own, but also in the context of all the others. It is advisable that the tasks at individual locations are varied, and that their didactic focus is refined and clear. The workshop as a whole will not appear chaotic and self-serving, but will have a more compact character.
Before you go with the participants of the workshop along the predetermined route, go through it yourself, in the order in which you have conceived it and with all the activities. Thanks to this step, you will have the opportunity to at least partially take on the role of a participant. In addition to verifying whether the order of places, as you determined it, is truly logical, you will also have the opportunity to take into account practical aspects, such as the noise level of the space, the safety of the space in terms of public transport, the possibility of distributing or seating the participants, or whether the time you reserved for individual places is sufficient.
Obstacles and Lessons Learned
- Designing a workshop around the public spaces of the city where you live is an inspiring way to connect students with local, regional, and often European and world histories. The specific focus of the workshop can be easily tailored to what exists in the city or neighbourhood of a school. Most European cities will have a number of potential sites where you can uncover multifaceted layers of history.
- Designing a workshop around a public space is a complex endeavour, requiring time and research skills. Students can to some extent be involved in the research aspects, however much will depend on the teacher and local support networks (e.g local museums, tour guides, associations, universities, etc.).
The authors present a concept for the creation and implementation of a historical workshop, making use of the public space in the teaching of history. Creating such a concept for a workshop is complex. The authors offer a framework of basic steps that are meant as recommendations for educators wishing to create a workshop in their own public space.
- Choice of city and setting of the key goal, ie. what we want to achieve with the workshop
- Selection of specific places
- Creating a route, ie. a logical arrangement of places in a row that corresponds to the set goal
- Route testing
- Consideration of necessary adjustments
- Realisation of the workshop
Based on Juraj’s and Tatiana’s experiences, they offer a couple of additional tips:
- As a starting point, verbalise expectations of the tour
- Keep the agreed deadlines
- Take a human, not managerial approach
This teaching practice was originally published on www.dejepis21.cz (page mainly in Czech, with certain pages in Slovak), where more details are available along with descriptions and examples of workshops in other cities in Slovakia and Czechia.
The Contested Histories project, jointly run by the Institute for Historical Justice and Reconciliation and EuroClio, provides an overview of disputes over statues, street names, and other historical legacies in public spaces all across the world. It can be a useful source of inspiration for locating sites near you.
About the Authors
Tatiana studied history and pedagogy. As part of her studies, she focused on the issues of recent Czech and Slovak history, the issue of national identity and the issue of nationalism and its manifestation in public space. She also dealt with the issue of integrated thematic teaching, specifically in the field of social sciences, and its possibilities of use in contemporary education. She has been working in the field of education since 2015. In 2017, she co-founded with Juraj, the NGO “Center for Education and Innovations”, in which she regularly participates and leads methodological seminars for history and civics teachers. Since 2020 she has been working as a methodologist in the project “History, Society and Culture of the 20th Century in the Digital Resources of the MKC Library”, which results in the creation of interactive pdfs. and online individual activities.
She has participated in multiple international projects for example „Who were the victims of national socialist“ project coordinated by Euroclio or project „Exploring the past in the present“ led and coordinated by The Institute for the Study of Totalitarian Regimes (Czechia).Currently she works as a history and civics teacher.
Juraj, trained as educator and historian, focuses on development of learning and teaching materials and development of teacher training programs on regional, national and European levels since 2014. Juraj loves to work with teachers and for teachers, support them and to create professional development opportunities for them. He founded the NGO Centre for Education and Innovations in Slovakia in 2017 and acts as its Chairman, cooperates with The Institute for the Study of Totalitarian Regimes (Czechia) on teaching about state socialism and acts as one of three Pedagogical Advisors for Holocaust as a starting point, teacher training program running in 26 countries around Europe by Mémorial de la Shoah (France). Juraj harvests data and researches about the use of the materials and programs developed. He is highly interested in communication, memory and propaganda studies, psycholinguistics and sociolinguistics.
For further questions or enquiries, Juraj Varga can be reached by email (firstname.lastname@example.org).
* This teaching practice was originally published in the Slovak language on www.dejepis21.cz and translated to English as part of the collection of teaching practices for the Critical History project with co-funding of the Erasmus+ Programme of the European Union.
The European Commission’s support for the production of this publication does not constitute an endorsement of the contents, which reflect the views only of the authors, and the Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained therein.