AK History Learning "Out of the Classroom"

Tuesday, July 4, 2023 by Catherine Gilliland | American History

We can encourage our children to invest themselves in understanding historical events and their effects on their populations by modeling interest in history. Take time to enjoy historical literature together, visit museums, many parks, and other historical locations (including the smaller roadside historical pullouts). Follow up your experiences with casual and enjoyable conversations about how the historical events or places you have learned of shaped people's lives.

The entire state of Alaska boasts of its rich historical heritage. How much do you know about the people and events that shaped the Land of the Midnight Sun? Summer is a great time to get out and explore the places where pivotal events occurred. What are you curious about? Aviation? Military history? Cultural events? Native Alaskan people groups? The Great 1964 Earthquake? Which four historical sites could you visit with your family during July to foster their ongoing interest and value in the history of Alaska? Please let me know about your great discoveries!

How many museums in Alaska have you explored?

Completing a quick overview of a museum website will help you to prepare for the topics about which you can learn. Find an appropriate balance for your family between reading every exhibit and none! If safe, maybe your readers can explore museum areas on their own while non-readers stay with a parent who can read or interpret exhibits for their level of learning. Above all, have fun learning, imagining life as displayed in the exhibit, and thinking of questions to continue your discovery after you leave the exhibits.

Alaska Aviation Heritage Museum

Alaska Museum of Science & Nature Alaska Museum of Science & Nature

Alaska Native Heritage Center

Alaska Public Lands Information Centers Visit one of the four APLIC across the state in Anchorage, Fairbanks, Ketchikan, & Tok.

Anchorage Museum

Fountainhead Antique Auto Museum (Fairbanks - period autos and fashion displays) 

Islands and Ocean Visitor's Center (Homer) 

Kenai Museum

Maxine and Jessie Whitney Museum Maxine & Jesse Whitney Museum

Museum of Alaska Transportation and Industry

Pratt Museum (Homer)

Seward Community Museum Seward Community Museum

Soldotna Historical Museum

University of Alaska Museum of the North

Road systems often grow to link places of history together. In Historic Roads of Alaska, you will find an abundance of stories of how those places were linked by different roads and tunnels throughout Alaska. Be alert to road signs indicating an Alaska National Historic Landmark or pullout is ahead. Take a quick break from your drive to learn more about your state's history.

The National Park Service administers 424 sites around the United States! The NPS administers 63 National Parks, eight of which are in Alaska, yet other sites within the national park system are administered as designated national monuments, national historical parks, national battlefields, national historic sites, and so on. NPS administers nine additional sites within Alaska. Give yourself a peek into the window of Alaska's past. The NPS website is full of pages for you to learn about the people of Alaska, their economic discoveries and innovations, their culture, and their archeological discoveries. Take these stories with you as you explore national parks. Because only a small percentage of Alaska is accessible by road, Alaska NPS also maintains a YouTube channel (and specific park channels) so you can learn about far away Alaska's history, too!

Alaska's parks are diverse in their science and history. Although the NPS administers 15 sites in our great state, others are administered by the US Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management. Are you familiar with the National Every Kid Outdoors programGet a pass to explore America’s public lands and waters with your family for free—just for being in the 4th grade! Your 4th grader's pass is valid at over 2,000 public lands and waters, national parks, national forests, and national wildlife refuges. Up to three adults (age 16 and older) and all kids (under age 16) get in free—so bring your family along! **See where you can use this pass in Alaska**

On the state and local levels, there are additional resources to fulfill curiosities about those Alaskans who came before us. The Alaska Department of National Resources maintains some resources. So do the Alaska Historical Society and various high school AK History online courses such as Alaska History and Cultural Studies ( The Anchorage Public Library maintains a specific Alaska Collection. Lastly, numerous local authors such as Laural Bill, author of the Aunt Phil's Trunk series have written numerous books for children (and adults) about Alaska History. 

Any of these resources can be used as a springboard to creatively plan all of your Alaska historical outings! Keep your eyes and ears open. Opportunities for learning outside the classroom about Alaska's history are seemingly endless!