In preparation for cataloging many of their town’s uploaded images on Maine Memory, Surry Elementary School middle level students recently met with several long-time residents for a “round robin” artifact activity.
“It was kind of like speed dating,” explains teacher (and MCHP team coordinator) Lynn Bonsey. “In a series of 10-minute sessions,” students moved from one or two community members to the next to learn increasingly more about their particular artifact. In the process, Lynn says, they heard some “delightful anecdotes and gained a lot of valuable information about their town’s history.”
Participating Surry residents included Jane Lord, Jane Smith, Wilbur Saunders, Marjorie Saunders, Joy Small, Jean Moon, Walter Kane, Marlene Tallent, and Kate Mrozicki. All gratefully shared their recollections with students who diligently took notes–not just about “dating” particular artifacts, of course, but also about the people, places, and stories represented by the artifacts.
As they studied a photograph of smelting tents, for example, students were particularly intrigued by Jane Lord’s explanation that back in the 1940s most Surry folks made their living farming or cutting wood, but in the winter, many of them had to smelt to raise money.
“Surry Bay used to freeze over and it [smelting] was really a big deal,” Mrs. Lord told them, adding that her husband’s aunt, who grew up in Surry, once told her that after she moved to Connecticut, she was walking down a city street and saw a sign in a store window saying “Surry Smelts” and it really warmed her heart to see her Downeast hometown represented in southern New England.
This type of intensive, cross-generational, classroom-based activity is ideal for the Maine Community Heritage Project. The short round robin segments keep things dynamic and fit well within highly structured class periods. Community members are welcomed into the school to interact with students within the kids’ comfort zone.
And, most importantly, the students hear from a multitude of voices regarding each historical item, thereby reinforcing the concept that each picture (or object, or letter, or document…) is indeed worth a considerable number of words.