SHAWNEE, Kan. — Chances are if a student has an opportunity to touch, smell, and feel something historical, the educational message that comes with it is more likely to sink in.
That’s exactly what De Soto Unified School District teacher Keil Hileman sees happen in his classroom nearly every day.
Hileman teaches museum connections and archeology at Monticello Trails Middle School in Shawnee, Kansas.
Rather than textbooks with still images or iPads with links, students in Hileman’s classroom are literally surrounded by history with thousands of artifacts lining the room’s shelves.
On Tuesday, Hileman told 41 Action News that he is trying to teach kids the way he wishes he’d been taught.
More than half of the artifacts in his classroom were donated and the collection grows each year. Among the items are World War II artifacts, bones, a piece of the Berlin Wall, and slave shackles.
The collection started by accident. Students started bringing in stuff and Hileman would then put it on a shelf.
"Everything tells a story if you choose to tell the story. Then you have to figure out how to tell it the best way," Hileman told NBC Left Field, the network’s new experimental video unit.
Artifacts also fill custom-built desks full of sand for excavation.
“In a normal history class, you don’t see this kind of stuff,” student Hunter Springer told NBC. “You read it in a book then get tested over it then forget about it. By using these artifacts, we get more of a feeling of how these people lived."
NBC Left Field’s story on Hileman was posted on Friday and has since been shared via Facebook across the country. Teachers have reached out to him to ask how they can start something similar at their schools.
Hileman said he's also heard from people who wish to donate items.
If you’d like to donate any items to Hileman's classroom, he can be reached at KeilH@usd232.org. He promises nothing will ever be sold and only be used for educational purposes.
41 Action News is also looking to do more stories about Kansas City area teachers who are doing unique things in their classrooms. If you have an idea to pitch contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Hileman was named Kansas Teacher of the Year in 2004 and was one of four finalists for the 2004 National Teacher of the Year.
This May will mark Hileman's 25th year in the classroom.