Students are struggling in education thanks to the COVID gap. Focusing in on engaging ways to teach and learn is on the rise, in order to bridge that gap in classrooms.

Some resources that have been around a long time, like historical museums and association provide that tangible engagement for students. Even exhibits on loan from the Smithsonian could help schools and kids to make the grade, according to educators, and local curator of history Robert Searing, with the Onondaga Historical Association.

"One of the things that a lot of the students love, whether they're middle schoolers, high schoolers or even college students to come in, is this 1902 Franklin lite roadster built in Syracuse. Engineer John Wilkinson invents essentially the four-cylinder engine," said Searing.

From innovation and transportation to innovative ways to transport people to freedom.

"Known as this Grand Central Depot on the Underground Railroad. Really the most successful station master here was a man named Reverend Jermaine Logan, he and his wife Caroline shepherded upwards of at least 1,500 enslaved peoples to freedom in Canada, all while he was a bishop in the AME Zion Church while he was out preaching and raising awareness about abolition," said Searing. "He was an incredible guy, but this is one of the finest Underground Railroad exhibits in the Northeast. And students come in here and it's an interactive exhibit. It's really immersive.”

Many students are immersed in technology these days. The newest exhibit helps to visualize where today's technology started.

"This is going to be up for another year. It's called pocketful of progress," said Searing, showing off another display. "The idea here is that everyone has a cell phone, everyone does everything on their cell phone but a while ago, not that long ago, you needed machines to do all the things that your cell phone does."

"Syracuse at one point, after it was known as the Salt City, was known as the Typewriter City. You had upwards of two-thirds of the typewriters manufactured in the country made in Syracuse," Searing says.

More local innovation on display includes the first television camera used to film the first television broadcasts in Syracuse back in 1948. It required intercity connection, explained Searing, with the lenses made by Bausch and Lomb in Rochester and then all of the components in the televisions made at General Electric's Schenectady factory. 

It's engaging history like this, Searing says, that helps students get a grasp on their roots as well as learn something deeper about their community through real-life engagement.

"Really think about the Empire State being this center of productive manufacturing in the United States. If it was built in America between 1900 to 1990, it was probably built at a factory in New York. So you can see these artifacts of those periods. It's really fantastic to see that stuff in real life, not a picture on the internet," said Searing.

Visits to museums and historical associations can provide kids with that much needed screen time break. Experts say it offers a closer experience to history and opportunities for critical thinking.