Our Hands on History, a new class at Spruce Mountain High School in Jay, created and co-taught by Susan St. Pierre, Nate Purrington, and Kymberli Bryant, is offering 10 students the opportunity to do the work of historians and delve deeply into the Civil War.
A little more than a month into the start of the school year these juniors and seniors have already had a refresher course on the Civil War, learned how to handle historic artifacts, and participated in a community wide book discussion of The Killer Angels by Michael Shaara.
Part of the experience involves several field trips to the Washburn-Norlands Living History Center. Norlands is the family home of the Washburns, one of the great political and industrial dynasties of the 19th century. Of the ten children born to Israel and Martha Washburn, seven sons rose to serve as governors, congressmen, a United States senator, Secretary of State, foreign ministers, a Civil War general, and a Navy captain.
On one field trip day in early October, students were happily ensconced with laptops and scanners in the 1883 Norlands library, busily scanning 19th century calling cards (carte de visites) and letters, measuring them, and completing detailed cataloging worksheets on each item. Norlands Director Sheri Leahan, along with the teachers, has been helping students identify and analyze collection items for the project.
Back in the classroom students have begun transcribing the letters and continuing to conduct research, looking to gather as much information as possible on each item that they hope to include in their Maine Memory Network exhibit. The working title for the exhibit is, “Livermore in the Civil War: A Hand in Transforming the Nation.” It will touch upon Livermore’s and the Washburn family’s participation in the Civil War and the effects of the war on the local community.
In addition to The Killer Angels, students will read three more Civil War themed books to gain a richer understanding of life in that era. Students and community members will then again engage in scholar facilitated discussions of these books, focusing on not only the direct subject matters of the books, but also the effects of the War on the greater Livermore Falls/Jay area.
For more information on the hands-on, technology aspects of the project, check out this blog post by teacher Kym Bryant.