History Through Young Eyes

Our final Local History, Local Schools (LHLS) celebration of the 2010-2011 academic year took place last Tuesday evening with three classes from Riverton School. About 50 students and parents attended the festivities along with the hard-working educators that led the projects–4th grade teacher Judi Riley, and 3rd grade teachers Mary Linneman and Shawna DeRice.

Given Riverton’s student population–about half come from families where English is not the native language–many of the projects, and certainly the celebration, had a wonderful international flair and focus. See for yourself.

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The students began their participation in LHLS with an introduction to MHS’s recently closed museum exhibit, ZOOM IN: New Approaches to Maine History by MHS Education Coordinator Bridget McCormick and Education Department assistant Rachel Miller, who then continued to work with the students in their classrooms. From the items and interpretation in ZOOM IN, students not only learned the basics of analyzing and interpreting primary sources, but a great deal about the state’s history. Ms. DeRice had her students convert that new knowledge into projects based on Portland landmarks that the class visited, and the people who lived and worked in the historic buildings.

Ms. Riley’s and Ms. Linneman’s classes went in a different direction, interviewing relatives and friends about how they came to Maine, where they lived previously, and special objects or memories. They brought in primary sources from their lives or countries of origin–family photographs, Japanese books, an army jacket, an African drinking vessel, a necklace–or drew representations of them. To facilitate the process, Ms. Linneman had a translator call home and explain the project to non-English speaking parents and why the students needed to bring personal items to school.

One young woman, Fartun Hassan, chose a black-and-brown, flower-patterned hijab she bought at her aunt’s store on Forest Avenue to represent an important aspect of life for Muslim women. (You can see the hijab and its descriptive card in the first photo, and again in a later photo in the slideshow with a broadly smiling Fartun standing next to it.) Another student, Josh Ying, used his project to highlight his mother and a primary source very precious to her–DVDs of her children. (Josh and his mom are pictured together toward the end of the slideshow.)

We can’t wait to see what the next LHLS classes do with our new exhibit, which opens to the public on June 24. Dressing Up, Fitting In, Standing Out: Adornment and Identity in Maine, 1750-1950 lends itself to all sorts of lesson planning, comparisons with contemporary life, and–last but not least–fun.

Many thanks to Education Department assistant Rachel Miller for contributing to this post.

 

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