Hall-Dalers Hunt for History in Hallowell

I couldn’t resist turning the title into an adventure in alliteration. It’s not often you get to work with that many repeating consonants!

Middle School students on the history trail in Hallowell

Middle School students on the history trail in Hallowell

Nor is it often, if you’re not a teacher, that you get to hang out with a group of middle schoolers hot on the trail of history. That’s what I got to do last Thursday morning as Hall-Dale 7th graders hit the streets, the library, and the cemetery in Hallowell as part of their introduction to the MCHP. While a formal school kick-off is planned for December 10, this field trip provided a solid foundation for appreciating the city’s history and wealth of historical resources.

Teacher Mike Quinn (on left) corrals students to explain the scavenger hunt

Teacher Mike Quinn (on left) corrals students to explain the hunt

Divided into three groups, the students rotated between well-designed, interactive sessions. At the Hubbard Free Library, director Melody Norman-Camp and teacher Mike Quinn oversaw a scavenger hunt.

Students find a statuette on the list

Students find a statuette

Pairs or trios of students were given a list of items to hunt down and describe in writing.

An item on the list: A fire bucket

An 1832 fire bucket

While these items–paintings, busts, artifacts–are all on regular display at the library, the investigative process taught students that they are more than just decor.

Students recording their impressions

Students recording their impressions

“It’s good that they get out and do [history] it instead of just reading [about] it,” said one parent chaperone.

Tour guide Gerry Mahoney at a Museum in the Streets stop

Tour guide Gerry Mahoney at a Museum in the Streets stop

Meanwhile, that sentiment was being echoed by students on historian Gerry Mahoney’s Museum in the Streets tour. “We learn more by doing hands-on stuff than just sitting in the classroom,” said students Olivia Maynard and Amber Bell simultaneously as they walked from one block to the next. When asked why, fellow student Emily Markham chimed in about the importance of  access to “the primary source of what we’re learning about.” For example, added Tiffiny McCollett, “I like to see the buildings where things happened.”

In front of the Cotton Mill sign

In front of the Cotton Mill sign

And see buildings they did on their hour-long walk. One of many stops was at the former 19th century cotton mill building (turned into apartments in the 1980s) on the corner of Water and Academy Streets. Students listened to Gerry’s lively and insightful commentary about the building, including the revealing lesson that the once-high production of such mills in the north was a direct result of cotton cultivation in the south. “In other words,” he said, even small northern cities like Hallowell indirectly “supported a slave economy.”

Heading to the next stop

Heading to the next stop

Following each stop, Gerry posed a multiple choice question to the students. At the Cotton Mill, the question also centered on economics: What did a mill worker make per six-day work week circa 1850? Choices: A) $3.75, B) $5.75, or C) $10.75. Students furiously haggled and then enthusiastically shouted out their answers. (Give up? The answer is at the bottom of the post.)

Hallowell Cemetery

Hallowell Cemetery

The third tour of the day took place at the Hallowell Cemetery, a short bus ride north of downtown. What a day and season for a winding stroll amid gravestones!

IMG_0744

Sam Weber points out a gravestone

With carpets of fallen leaves, overcast skies, and nippy temperatures as his backdrop, Library trustee and city historian Sam Webber–dressed for the part in a 19th century top hat, bow tie, and black coat–led students around to various town father and mother gravestones.

IMG_0751

Hallowell's first resident

These included first Hallowell settler Deacon Pease Clark and members of the influential Hubbard family, among others.

As you can imagine, these tours–and a mid-day break for a bag lunch in City Hall Auditorium–absorbed virtually an entire school day. But what a great way to lay the groundwork of the MCHP, and lifelong engagement in local history in general. The investment of just a few hours out of the classroom and into the past can pay great dividends in the classroom for the foreseeable future.

(Still wondering what mill workers were paid? The answer is A) $3.75.)

Advertisements

About mainechp

Maine Community Heritage Project at Maine Historical Society
This entry was posted in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to Hall-Dalers Hunt for History in Hallowell

  1. Pingback: Front and Center: The MCHP Student Experience « LIVING HISTORY: The Maine Community Heritage Project Weblog

  2. Pingback: Guilford’s and Hallowell’s Secret to Success? Balance. « LIVING HISTORY: The Maine Community Heritage Project Weblog

  3. Pingback: Hallowell Sets the (Second) Stage for Students « LIVING HISTORY: The Maine Community Heritage Project Weblog

  4. Pingback: Takin’ It to the Streets « LIVING HISTORY

  5. Pingback: Endnote Speakers: 7th Graders Highlight Dual Hallowell (and the final MCHP) Celebrations « LIVING HISTORY

  6. Pingback: MMN Towns Still Going Strong | (RE)LIVING HISTORY

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s