P.L.A.C.E. Matters

Historical events happen at particular times but they also happen in particular places. Yet, we too often overlook the particular places and spaces where events occurred. Common Ground, a National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) funded project, worked with K-12 humanities teachers from across the country to develop a place-based pedagogical approach to the past. In our project, we focused on the Gilded Age and Progressive Era (c. 1870s to 1920s), a decisive period in U.S. history that is often focused on the urban America. In our project, we “re-placed” this period by incorporating the Adirondacks in upstate New York. Our de-centering of the urban put these seemingly disparate regions (the urban and the “wild) into constructive conversation with each other. Doing so helped us to focus on interrelationships between regions and to see where the wild existed in the urban and the urbane in the wild. 

To facilitate this work, Common Ground adapted the work of Sam Wineburg and Christine Baron whose work in the field of the Scholarship on Teaching and Learning (SOTL) developed protocols to help us “see” how historians think when engaging with the sources of the past.

Our P.L.A.C.E. heuristic (or tool), is the result. This technique helps students focus on the places and spaces of the past and ask relevant questions whose answers bring them to a deeper and richer understanding of the history that took place there.

P.L.A.C.E. Videos


Layers of time