Hidden histories are those stories that are important to our nation but that most people haven’t heard about. It might be the story of Franklin Roosevelt’s use of a wheelchair, it might be the story of Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings, or it might be the African-American genius women who starred in “Hidden Figures.”
Schools focus on an outline of our history that includes well-known names, events, and themes. This helps to ensure that all children learn some basics as a starting point for future study. It allows us all to have a common story that we can refer to and understand as a collective. But, that outline was written by people with specific interests and biases and they left out (often in the interest of space and time) stories that resonate for specific groups or that build empathy between different peoples or that show the uglier and more difficult side of our history.
We have chosen to accept the outline set forth in the Standards of Learning presented in many states and to try to use that as a scaffold for including some of those hidden histories. We can pick a theme and go through the timeline offered by the states and add on details and stories and personalities to give our history more depth and breadth. We can see that there are a wide variety of people, events, and themes that can build richness and understanding in our perception of our country.
For children who are still learning about the complexity of the human condition, it doesn’t necessarily help to discuss the shortcomings of Christopher Columbus. Knowing about him, even if it is in the clean and pretty story found in many books, provides a stepping stone for future understanding of what his arrival meant to the people living in his path. The stories of pre-school provide a way to understand the absurdity of Columbus “discovering” a land already full of people, lives, and livelihoods.
Our Expansion Pack program looks to do just that. We work within the framework of what children know or are told they should know and build upon it. We can look at the main time periods from the point of view of African Americans. We can look at how scientists influenced our history and the role they played in it. We can see that women contributed throughout our entire history. Thus, our Expansion Packs take the basic outline of our history and fill in the holes, add richness and description, and show children that our stories come from many different people, places, and influences. Of course, this is not the final pass through. It is just another step for children as they grow and become increasingly capable of understanding the complex, complicated, and messy beast that history actually is.