Talk about a great day for hoofing it. Last Wednesday, April 7–which topped out somewhere around 80 degrees in southern Maine–the Biddeford MCHP team spent a couple hours touring the city’s “Museum in the Streets.” And by team, I mean 14 people–five adults, and nine students from teacher Denise Doherty’s Project Aspire course at Biddeford High School. (There were a few other interlopers, albeit welcome ones, on the tour as well–yours truly, another high school staff member, and a reporter and photographer from the Journal Tribune, there to record the event for a great feature on the project published in the paper’s April 10 edition.)
In some cases, a Museum in the Streets tour would be the one of the first things an MCHP team would do to ground students in local history. Hallowell, in fact, did so back in October. But these Biddeford High students have learned plenty about their city’s history since day one, and they’ve been involved in all aspects the MCHP since then, too. So this tour wasn’t so much about introducing the first ingredient–it was about spreading icing on the cake.
In the midst of putting the finishing touches on their formal contribution to the team’s website–an exhibit on the Civil War era in Biddeford–this springtime walk around town was a great opportunity to see up close some of the buildings and historical hot spots they had learned about already through photographs and research.
If you ask the adults on the team, they’ll also tell you it’s just plain fun to hang out together. Cliche though it may be to say it, a real “bonding experience” has taken place between the generations. But it’s not just been during the traditional learning moments. Realizing the value of rewarding good service and enjoying social time, the adult team members have made sure every activity has included food and down time–whether a bevy of snacks at the library or, as after this tour, a quick pop into Dunkin’ Donuts.
The result of all this for the students? A lot, according to Denise: more engagement in school activities and better attendance; an increase in self-respect and respect for others; a genuine interest in, and greater understanding of, local history; and an overall improvement in attitude.
Speaking on behalf of Maine Historical Society, that’s a darn good return on our investment.