Local History Local Schools: Small School

On Thursday, March 5, Small School from South Portland visited our campus to celebrate the completion of their Local History Local Schools study. Fourth grade students from Mr. Stoner’s and Ms. Cloutier’s classes gave presentations and shared their work with fellow classmates, parents, and MHS staff. Their projects will continue to be on display in the Student Gallery, we invite you to come check them out!

Enjoy this slideshow of images from the event:

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Local History Local Schools Students Wrap Up in Style

“A gold-tipped cane, and some amethyst jewelry
Dressing up, standing out, fitting in, that’s our style…”

Last Tuesday, more than 250 students and families gathered at Maine Historical Society to celebrate the close of the fall 2011 session of “Local History, Local Schools.” Approximately 150 3rd graders from the Reiche and Lyseth schools in Portland participated in the three month partnership, which included two classroom visits from museum educators and a trip to Maine Historical Society to see the exhibit “Dress Up, Standing Out, Fitting In: Adornment and Identity in Maine 1750-1950.”

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The celebration offers students a chance to show off to their parents an impressive wealth of knowledge about heirloom jewelry, masquerades, and a variety of formal wear over the past two centuries in Maine.

But perhaps most importantly, each student created a primary document that could be used by future historians as evidence of what Maine 3rd graders wore in 2011. Many students wrote about formal occasions and rites of passage, including weddings, confirmations, graduations, funerals and holidays. Others wrote about favorite t-shirts, wool hats and aprons handed down through the family. Each project featured a photograph or drawing of the item of clothing and a personal narrative explaining the object’s signifiance. Here are some excerpts from the students’ writing:

“My brother, cousin and I were taking pictures outside on a summer day.  I am wearing a t-shirt that has gray and red stripes.  I am wearing new jeans that are blue. I am wearing shoes that are Nikes.  I am fitting in with my cousins because we have the same t-shirts.  I’m in my neighborhood in Nashville, Tennessee.  The sun was very hot and bright, too. My mom told us ot sit on the car because she wanted memories in her book of memories. I fit in with the whole neighborhood because we are all wearing t-shirts.” (Nassir Omar)

“One day when I was leaving my grandparents house, Nana said ‘Come here before you leave.’ I wondered why she said come here. So Nana stuck our her hand and took off her ring. She said ‘I want to give you this ring because I gave one to your sister, too.’  The ring was silver and said Love, Dream, Believe. I was so happy I was about to cry tears, happy tears. I never, never take it off, not even when I’m sleeping because it means so much to me.” (Jalelee Saint-Paulin)

“I like to look handsome. I am wearing a black, pink, and blue tie.  I am wearing a button-up, long-sleeve shirt and I have a black belt. I am thinking, ‘I am never taking this off!!’ And I like my smile. I wore this outfit to a church.  I went to a funeral with my best clothes.  I always ask my mom to wear my best clothes.  My family thinks I look cute. My clothes and I lived happily ever after.” (Nathan Kerr–who wore the clothes he describes to the celebration!)

The student projects are currently on display in the Showcase Gallery and will be up until the spring.

In addition to the projects, the highlight of the celebration was a musical performance in masquerade by the Lyseth classes. With the help of music teacher Mr. Fen, students sang a version of Marty Robbins’ 1957 hit “A White Sport Coat (and a Pink Carnation)” with new lyrics based on the “Dressing Up” exhibit. See the video of the kids singing on our Facebook page.

A special thanks to Lyseth teachers Sheila Hayward, Barbara Judge, Pat Ripley and Margaret Slocumb, and Reiche teachers Selene Becker, Maryann Foley and Kristen Fox.

(Editor’s Note: And another special thanks to MHS Education Assistant Rachel Miller for writing this post!)

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.


We Value–and Need–Your Support

House wrights' banner, Portland, 1841

We hope the news, stories, and exhibits you receive through our various communication tools provides you with a window into all that MHS does–preserving valuable historic treasures like the Maine Charitable Mechanics banners, helping communities use Maine Memory Network to share their local history, providing thousands of elementary school students with a unique museum experience, maintaining the Longfellow House and Garden, documenting the contributions of interesting Maine citizens like Dave Astor, and much more.

Despite challenging economic times, MHS has remained strong, thanks to generous friends who value and support the work we do. The Annual Fund is an essential part of this support–it provides approximately 20% of the MHS budget and supports core activities across the organization.

Instrument Makers' banner, Portland, 1841

Our Annual Fund goal for this fiscal year is $260,000–a 15% increase over last year.  Ambitious, but also critical to maintaining our programs and ensuring they reach and serve as wide an audience as possible. Our fiscal year ends September 30 and we need your participation.

Robert Penn Warren said, “History cannot give us a program for the future, but it can give us a fuller understanding of ourselves, and of our common humanity, so that we can better face the future.”

Won’t you help MHS remain strong far into the future by joining with us to preserve, celebrate, and study Maine’s dynamic past? It’s a great gift to our common humanity.

Kids in the Hall

There’s nothing like delighted children to kick up a room’s energy level a notch (or two). And so the MHS lecture hall was a happy, hopping place on the evening of April 27.

That was the night of our spring Local History Local Schools celebration. Roughly 140 students from two Portland elementary schools–4th and 5th graders from Hall School and 3rd graders from Ocean Avenue School–joined with teachers, parents, grandparents, and MHS staff to celebrate their great work based on our ZOOM IN: New Approaches to Maine History exhibit.

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Of course there are as many charming stories of the students’ projects–now on display in the hallway off our lecture hall through the first week in June–as there are students. But we’ll share just one as an example.

Much of the focus of the students’ work was on learning about primary and secondary sources and then interpreting their knowledge through projects. In one of the classes, students created their own primary sources through interviews conducted with family members. One young man chose to interview his artistic grandfather because, as the student wrote in his narrative included in the exhibit, “I wanted to know how he got interested in art, and what it was like in his childhood.”

Fittingly, the grandfather provided his grandson with a primary source from that childhood to include in the exhibit, something he’s kept all these years, and something that relates to the activity he so enjoys. His grandson explains in his narrative: “When he was going to high school, he was given a pencil every semester to use throughout the year. The pencils he got did not have an eraser so he had to use a handheld one instead.”

That pencil is lovingly featured in our student exhibit hallway right now, through early June. (And if you have eagle eyes — you can see a photo of it in the slideshow above, as well as the young man standing between his grandfather and grandmother.) Don’t miss it–or any of the other wonderful works on display. We guarantee you will be amazed.

Finally, an extra special thanks goes to all the teachers for their commitment and dedication to their students and this program. We certainly couldn’t do it without you!

Local History Local Schools Celebration

Our Local History Local Schools celebration Tuesday night gave students from Wentworth Intermediate School in Scarborough, Lyseth Elementary in Portland, and Small Elementary in South Portland the opportunity to show off their great work based on our gallery exhibit, “ZOOM IN: New Approaches to Maine History.”

While they all go through a similar learning process, their final projects are entirely custom-designed to the class and the student. As they should be!

Please enjoy these wonderful photos, join us in thanking their inspiring teachers, and come see ALL the fabulous results of their work, which will be up in the hallway off the lecture hall through April.

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