Toolkit: History Comes Alive One Rowdy HUZZAH! at a Time

Anne Arundel County history and social studies teacher Mark Haring digs deep to find relevance in his lessons.

Mark Haring is a veteran social studies and history teacher at Severna Park High School in Anne Arundel County.

Huzzah! I’ve been known to exclaim Huzzah! to accentuate a point. By the end of the course, students join in on hearty “Huzzahs.” I also write “HUZZAH” across the top of the assessments of students who scored 100%. And, Huzzah! is usually the exclamation point at the end of the AP students’ pre-test pep talk.

Tricorn Hat and Thomas Jefferson’s Declaration of Independence I’m fascinated by the courage of the American colonists who challenged the British rule. I draw great inspiration from the Founders’ expression of the equality and the rights of man. I emphasize these throughout the entirety the course.

Personal Family Stories To help illustrate the historical narrative, I tell stories of how the times affected my own family. I’ve shared stories of how my grandmother adjusted recipes due to wartime rationing and how my parents coped with the stagnant economy and energy crisis of the 1970s by taking modest camping trips in our station wagon.

My American Places This collection of essays inspired an assignment asking students to write their own essay for what makes a place uniquely “American.” Students wrote about everywhere from New York City, to Arlington Cemetery, to Chico, California. I enjoyed seeing their creativity and thoughtfulness.

Music I’ve created “Era Playlists” that include the music of the time period and modern takes on history. For example, the and They Might Be Giants recorded a song about James K. Polk which nicely sums up his political career. The song is a little corny, but the students always remember Polk.

History as Narrative Two historians — McCulloch and Ambrose — have greatly influenced the way I look at, and teach, history. I tell my students that we won’t be memorizing dates, events, and, names. Instead, we’ll track a great story filled with anecdotes of everyday people, places, and things — the heart and soul of history.