Hands on History Program

2011 HOH Camp
We face a challenge in preparing Savannah’s young people to more fully appreciate this unique community. If we can instill a deeper understanding of Savannah’s heritage, we will also deepen their appreciation for history, architecture, and the trades that are associated with the preservation industry. By teaching and demonstrating the benefits of preservation education to our youth, will pass the torch of leadership as we steward our community through the 21st century. Historic Savannah Foundation (HSF) accepts its share of responsibility for this undertaking, and we have developed a program to address those needs. HSF’s Hands on History program—designed in partnership with Savannah-Chatham Public Schools (SCCPSS) —offers middle and high school students the opportunity to experience, first hand, the positive impacts of preservation on Savannah and its economy.

The Hands on History Program is a comprehensive year-round program. Working with the faculty of Savannah Early College and Woodville Tompkins High School, HSF interacts with students through three primary categories which are outlined on the attached curriculum overview.

Hands on History Summer Camp

Hands on History Camp is presented in partnership with the City of Savannah Department of Cultural Affairs’ Weave – A – Dream program, and is also sponsored by Choate Interior Construction Company, and Gulfstream Aerospace Corporation.

2017 HOHC Sponsor Logos_City Gulfstream
HSF’s 2017 Hands on History Summer Camp took  place on May 29 – June 2, 2017.


7 Masonry Wksp_Coastal Heritage SocietyHands-On-History Summer Camp is an interactive camp hosted by HSF which is geared towards giving students an overview of the field of historic preservation and rehabilitation through lectures and tours while providing hands-on experience through various practical workshops. This program provides a look at the world of history, preservation and site interpretation at several historic sites in Savannah. The program is implemented in a day-camp style for five weekdays (Monday – Friday) for one week in the summer. Each day runs from 8:00 AM – 2:00 PM and the camp is open to ages 10 – 15. The camp workshops, tours and demonstrations are held at various historic sites throughout downtown Savannah and surrounding locations. Students are equipped with detailed profiles of each site and interact with the professional staff at each destination.

20 Davenport House Museum

  • Students gain a foundation in architectural history and preservation theory through walking tours and activities like architectural scavenger hunts and Preservation Bingo.
  • Students visit the Massie School, a teaching museum for history and architecture.
  • Students tour the Coastal Heritage Society’s Railroad Roundhouse Museum, which houses the oldest and most complete railroad repair shops in the country.
  • Students learn to “read” a historic building as Coastal Heritage Society staff preservationists point to visual signs of decay, repair, etc.
  • At the Roundhouse, campers also have an opportunity to experience hands-on activities which have included brick re-pointing, stained-glass working, window glazing and white-washing.
  • Students visit the Davenport House Museum, Savannah’s premier example of Federal architecture.
  • Students tour Fort Pulaski, where they learn about the site and receive demonstrations on historic lime mortar and how it is made.
  • Students visit the Tybee Light Station, where they learn about Savannah’s coastal heritage and view projects that are in-progress.


2 Savannah Walking TourFrom the Roundhouse Railroad Museum to Beach Institute and from Tybee Island Light Station to Savannah’s Landmark District; subtle messages of conservation, stewardship and recycling underlie the training. Though the camp, students learn basic architectural periods, styles and features as well as urban planning concepts—both traditional and new. In addition, students gain knowledge about some of Savannah’s early historical figures and their contributions to our community. The camp represents the best of young adult learning techniques: a hands on approach for teaching the importance of history, understanding and appreciating their environment, and seeing the positive impacts of historic preservation (and, in some cases, the negative impacts of losing historic buildings) in their community.
The camp culminates with an evaluation survey that students are required to complete, and which helps us measure and improve the effectiveness of our curriculum. Campers are also awarded certificates of completion for their participation. At the conclusion of the camp students have a solid understanding of Savannah, her history, preservation, and perhaps equally important, valuable trades which benefit their community.



Visiting Professionals

In coordination with SCCPSS, HSF selects and coordinates with professionals in the preservation industries of metal work, plaster, brick and mortar work, reclaimed wood, stained glass and more, to visit the schools in a series of hands-on lectures and how-to demonstrations, giving students the opportunity to learn about preservation techniques as well as industry-related careers.  Students are exposed to different industries twice each semester.



Box City

2011 Box City Box City is a real place. It’s a starting place for learning about one’s community—how it looks and how it grows. HSF helps students from Savannah-Chatham County Public School System learn about architecture, planning and community development through a nationally recognized program called Box City (created by the Center for Understanding the Built Environment). In partnership with the Early College Program at SCCPSS, HSF helps guide 9th graders interested in Historic Preservation as a career. We work with the students to ignite their interest, build their skills and convert a budding enthusiasm into an avocation and vocation to serve Savannah.

Over the course of seven days (twice a year), HSF staff walk Early College students through the process of building a city using boxes they design to reflect uses and styles they learn about in their curriculum. They learn about zoning, scale, design guidelines, the planning process, deadlines and group decision-making all the while expressing their newfound knowledge in architecture.

In the end, students gain a three-dimensional knowledge about executing a two-dimensional plan. Box City is a total learning activity and HSF is pleased to be able to touch dozens of students each year using this innovative teaching tool as a way to shape the future of our cities.