The Benefits of Participation

IMG_0643Woody Allen once quipped: “Eighty percent of success is showing up.” Sounds easy enough, but there’s still another 20 percent that involves doing something. You’ve got to participate actively in the experience in order to reach out and grab success by the tail.

7th grader Jessica Steinort next to the food table

7th grader Jessica Steinort talks to a community member next to the seasonally-decorated food table

That was the subtle undercurrent on Wednesday, October 14, as Scarborough’s MCHP team hosted an enthusiastic crowd of about 50 town residents in the community room of the Scarborough Public Library. A truly intergenerational group, the mix included students, parents, partnering organization trustees, town VIPs (including a state rep), and other community members.

They were drawn by extensive publicity, personal invitation, and–coming off the 350th anniversary celebration the town threw last year–a predilection for all things local and historical. (Not to mention the promise of goodies, which included cookies made from recipes in a new “Scarborough Fare” cookbook put out by the Scarborough Historical Society.)

So getting them to show up wasn’t exactly easy, but it was made easier by loads of preparation. And so was the other 20 percent–the active part. After introductions and an Maine Memory Network demo, team members took turns narrating a snazzy PowerPoint presentation that outlined their perceived “Benefits of Participation” in the MCHP.

7th grader Laura Henny

7th grader Laura Henny kicks off the student portion of Scarborough's MCHP presentation

And by team members, I mean students as well. About 20 or so of Scarborough Middle School teacher Jessica Kelly’s Gifted-and-Talented students will participate in the project, many of whom were at the event to explain first hand what they expected to get out of the experience.

7th grader Drew Wells

7th grader Drew Wells

After Jessica explained that “MCHP has everything a teacher is looking for” the students weighed in with particulars. Comments included benefits like becoming “actively engaged in community” and not only learning about Scarborough’s history, but “playing a prominent role in sharing that history.”

8th grader Emily Carter

8th grader Emily Carter

They hope to develop and apply research, critical thinking, writing, technology, communication, and literacy skills. “When students value what they are doing,” said one young presenter, “they are more likely to succeed.”

The same could be said for the audience. Following the students, and remarks by historical society members on the importance of developing future stewards for historic preservation, team leader Celeste Shinay asked the attendees to weigh in.  What did they, as community members, think were the benefits of Scarborough participating in the MCHP?

Team leader Celeste Shinay facilitating the conversation part of the evening

Team leader Celeste Shinay facilitating the conversation part of the evening

Lively conversation ensued with responses ranging from introducing new residents and people “from away” to Scarborough’s history, to strengthening the partnership between school and community, and “bringing history to life” with stories instead of relying on dry names and dates. Clearly, attendees valued the chance to contribute their ideas and throw their weight behind the project.

“This is a great validation,” said Celeste, as she wrapped up the formal conversation and invited people to chat with one another over one last cookie before leaving. “It’s always re-affirming to know our community as a whole is supporting what we’re doing.”

Sounds like a solid 100 percent to me.

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About mainechp

Maine Community Heritage Project at Maine Historical Society
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