Back to School!

Chemistry class, Fryeburg Academy, ca. 1906 (MMN #17500)
Chemistry class, Fryeburg Academy, ca. 1906 (MMN #17500)
Yes, it’s that time already–back to school. Since the first compulsory education law was passed in Maine in 1887, round about Labor Day has meant leaving behind the sun and fun of summer and returning to academic pursuits.

This online exhibit focuses on early 20th century public education in Maine with photographs of schoolhouses, classrooms, and extracurricular activities from around the state.



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!

This Day in History: A New Chapter in American Education

Writing on the Board, North School, Portland. 1915

On this day in 1635, the Boston Latin School (Boston, MA) was founded. It was the first public school in the United States. Maine Memory Network historian, Candace Kanes, created an online exhibit that explores the history of public schooling in Maine. Here is text from that exhibit, along with some images. See the full exhibit here.

Back to School

Maine officially became part of Massachusetts in 1677 and therefore was subject to the laws of that colony, which had required since 1647 that public schools be established.

Despite the law, most youth did not have access to public schools.

By the mid to late eighteenth century, schools were more common in Maine. Some educated both boys and girls; some were limited to one sex or the other.

When Maine became a separate state in 1820, legislators soon passed a school code that required towns to raise money to educate people ages 4 to 21.

The state’s first enforced compulsory education law was passed in 1887 and since that time, fall has meant “back to school” for most young people in the state.

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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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