Hanover students visit retirement home for out-of-classroom history lesson

MECHANICSVILLE, Va. -- To learn about American history, some students from Lee Davis High School are leaving the textbooks behind.

They’re learning history through memories.

"I remember the Joseph McCarthy hearings very well," Dr. Harold Rohrs said.  “They were televised.”

Dr. Rohrs

Dr. Rohrs is talking with history students about what life was like in the United States when he was their age.

He and other residents at Covenant Woods were happy to share the things they remembered about events that changed our country.

"We’re trying to get those first-hand experiences," graduating senior Cole McAndrews said.

Cole McAndrews

"History is not just words on paper," history teacher Amy Vanlandingham said. "History is not just writing. History is dynamic; it's complex.  It's different for everybody."

Ms. Vanlandingham

Cole learned Dr. Rohrs grew up before the civil rights movement with an African-American friend.

"South of the Mason Dixon Line, that was a rare opportunity", Dr. Rohrs explained.

Students are also learning how historic events affected people differently. For instance, Cole learned how rationing during World War II affected Dr. Rohrs as a child.

"I was a kid who had lots of aunts and uncles who were farmers," he said. "We really didn't have shortages."

"It's important for me that my kids see and be empathetic to those different perspectives," Ms. Vanlandingham said.

Building understanding of the past is Building Better Minds.

Building Better Minds with Rob Cardwell airs every Wednesday on CBS 6 at 6 a.m.