Guest Post: Connecting Youth to Our Heritage

The YHP 2016 group learning about sketching as an early form of documentation at Mount Rainier National Park.

Jennifer Mortensen is the Preservation Services Coordinator for the Washington Trust for Historic Preservation and serves as the main organizer and point of contact their annual Youth Heritage Project). The Youth Heritage Project is a 5-day, hands-on field school/history camp designed to connect youth to Washington’s historic, cultural, and natural resources.

How do we make historic preservation a priority for the next generation? Take youth to historic places and help them make a direct connection with the tangible pieces of our collective culture.

In 2012, the Washington Trust launched the Youth Heritage Project (YHP) to help build a statewide ethic that preserves Washington’s historic places while promoting sustainable and economically viable communities. Two long-standing goals for the Washington Trust are to engage both young people and diverse audiences in the important work of historic preservation; YHP does both. Through generous support from the National Park Service, the Washington State Department of Archaeology and Historic Preservation, and other grantors, the Washington Trust is able to offer YHP free of cost to all participants. It is a priority to ensure that any interested youth of any socioeconomic background can attend.

Groups at YHP 2016 preparing projects to present at the Town Hall event.

Every year YHP is in a different place with a different historic topic. This year, we are excited to dive into the maritime history of Washington State and host YHP in downtown Tacoma, July 11-15, 2017. There is no denying that water and our incredible coastal landscapes have deeply affected Washington’s history, and we are excited to help bring these topics to light for the next generation. The program will be structured around the seven themes in the proposed Washington State National Maritime Heritage Area:

  1. Canoe Cultures
  2. Voyages of Discovery
  3. Trade and Commerce
  4. Water Highways
  5. Protecting Our Shores
  6. Harvest from the Sea
  7. Communities Shaped by Water
Participants at YHP 2017 will have the chance to experience the Commencement, a rehabilitated historic fishing vessel.

YHP participants will have the opportunity to tour various sites in Tacoma and engage hands-on for an in-depth learning experience. Want to take a ride on a historic fishing vessel? Or visit a renovated part of a former “rails to sails” warehouse that once stretched over a mile? Or how about helping with a boat building project at a local woodshop? We are creating a curriculum that will make YHP Tacoma an unforgettable experience for all!

We want students to form their own ideas for what constitutes successful and engaging historic preservation strategies. In addition to all the activities we are planning, participants will be asked to develop their own ideas about why preservation matters and how remembering the past can be a crucial part of a sustainable future. We strive to teach participants that strong communities are the result of deliberate strategies, actions, and choices. YHP helps students become better educated citizens and voters who are conscious of history and its importance to our future.

Application and more info:

For questions contact: Jennifer Mortensen, 206-624-9449,