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A closed Lanterman House brings history to virtual life for students who cannot tour

Children from La Cañada's Moses family ride their donkey, Chili Beans, from their home on Palm Drive to school, circa 1923. The photo is part of a virtual tour of Lanterman House being offered to students during the coronavirus pandemic.
(Courtesy of the Lanterman House Archives)

Touring Lanterman House is a milestone in the intellectual development of La Cañada third-graders, many of whom are learning of their city’s history for the very first time, in accordance with California social studies standards.

Last year, 456 local students roamed through the 1915 Craftsman-style house, where they got an up-close look at the former home of Roy and Emily Lanterman, carefully restored in the 1990s with objects bequeathed to the city by the family’s last living heir, Lloyd Lanterman.

Like many local destinations, the nonprofit museum closed to the visiting public in March as shelter-in-place restrictions were put in place to combat the spread of the novel coronavirus. Tours were canceled and docents were sent home.

The Crescenta Cañada Valley looking toward the San Gabriel Mountains, circa 1907, is one of several photographs school children can see on a virtual tour of La Cañada's Lanterman House.
The Crescenta Cañada Valley looking toward the San Gabriel Mountains, circa 1907, is one of several photographs school children can see on a virtual tour of La Cañada’s Lanterman House.
(Courtesy of the Lanterman House Archives)

To help bring Lanterman House to life for school children now engaged in distance learning, museum officials have created an education page on the organization’s website teachers can use to build lessons around important moments in La Cañada history.

A local history booklet, typically handed out to visiting students for free, has been scanned and posted onto an education page on the Lanterman House website, where photo galleries and activities are also housed to help impart local history to those who cannot visit in person.

“This is the first time any of these materials have been available digitally,” said Executive Director Laura Verlaque, who helped build the site alongside archivist Julie Yamashita.

A local history book by June Dougherty and illustrator Virginia Robertson, usually offered to third-graders during Lanterman House tours, is now available in a digital format.
A local history book by June Dougherty and illustrator Virginia Robertson, usually offered to third-graders during Lanterman House tours, is now available in a digital format.
(Courtesy of the Lanterman House Archives)

“You can’t replace hands-on learning and walking into the living room of the house for the first time,” Verlaque said. “But you do have to give them some of the information and materials — teachers need to get this in the curriculum for the year.”

Teachers who organize the annual school tours say they’re grateful to have the online resource, given the inability to visit the museum during the pandemic.

Palm Crest Elementary School third-grade teacher Kristin McDaniel has been taking kids on trips to Lanterman for the past six years and had planned an early April visit before La Cañada Unified’s transition to online learning.

“It’s in our social studies standards to learn about local history, and Lanterman House is definitely our biggest source of local history,” McDaniel said. “Missing this field trip really changes the unit when we’re teaching it—the kids definitely don’t connect to it in the same way.”

McDaniel already taught a local history lesson to her students but reviewed the museum’s new online material with her third-grade teacher colleagues and found it suitable for use in a lesson or as the basis for a class project.

“We all explored it and had the very same sentiment — this is a perfectly designed website to teach this unit distantly,” she said.

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