Day at the Museum: Preservation in Action

War in the Pacific National Historical Park

Jaclyn Balajadia, Pacific Historic Parks Education Manager at War in the Pacific National Historical Park, Guam

On March 25 and April 1, influenced by the Hollywood fantasy-comedy film, Night at the Museum (2006), the Pacific Historic Parks Guam Education Team reflected over the names of the people that were written in the walls of the exhibits, memorial, and monuments in the War in the Pacific National Historical Park. We imagined what the park would look like if these individuals suddenly sprung to life. We wondered, “What might these individuals say?” or “What important stories would they want to pass down to the residents of Guam today?” and “What values of the time period could be expressed through a short first person narrative?”

Pacific Historic Parks collaborated with War in the Pacific National Historical Park to make this project come alive. Titled, A Day at the Museum: Preservation in Action and funded through a grant from the Guam Preservation Trust, this new Service Learning youth-focused project integrates fine art/theatre into schools’ core curricula through encouraging and educating the island youths, their families, and the community to engage with the stories of people during World War II on Guam.

Guam public high school students visit and utilize the resources available at the War in the Pacific National Historical Park to learn about the struggles of Guam’s indigenous population, the Chamorro, the Battle for Guam, and the lasting impact of World War II on the island. Guam public high school Language Arts teacher, Rhonda Rekdahl, worked with Pacific Historic Parks to create and implement the curriculum. “This project makes connections to the past and makes history ‘come alive’ and makes human experiences come to life,” Rekdahl said. “My students can feel what it was like living on Guam with limited resources, struggling to survive, losing (and sometimes joyfully reuniting with) family members, famine, illness, injuries beyond what any ‘average’ citizen would experience on Guam during ‘peace time’ years after World War II.”

Students select a historical figure that lived on Guam during World War II to research and write a report. With the assistance of their teacher, a Historical Research Coach, and a Theater Coach, they develop their research paper into a monologue performance. Students dress up as a historical figure and portray that person in an interactive presentation called a first-person interpretation. First person interpretation is when someone embodies the persona of a historical figure or character, speaking as if they were that person in that time period. Scheduled performances will be held at the T. Stell Newman Visitor Center on December 9, 2017.

A Day at the Museum: Preservation in Action project fulfills Guam Department of Education’s curriculum standards and students can gain more than memorizing historical facts. “In creating and performing their monologues I hope students will experience empathy for several history figures,” Rekdahl said, “and gain a unique perspective and be able to share that perspective with others.” This cultural, historical and student-centered project supports a distinct set of learning and skill-development objectives for youth ages 13 to19 years old, fulfills the GDOE Service Learning requirements, and provides a creative avenue to convey the experience of the War in the Pacific National Historical Park’s vast collection of personal stories of survival, triumph, peace, and forgiveness in World War II.