Plainville Community Schools, 47 Robert Holcomb Way, Plainville CT 06062, (860)793-3200

District Expands Collaboration With Plainville Historical Society

Third graders in Plainville's elementary schools recently enjoyed an enhanced exploration of local history, thanks to an expanded collaboration between the school district and the Plainville Historical Society.

Earlier this year, Plainville Community Schools' Elementary Curriculum Coordinator Tawana Graham-Douglas and Literacy Resource Teacher Jennifer Murrihy began working with Plainville Historical Society President Nancy Eberhardt and Vice President Rose Stanley to explore ways to enhance the annual third grade field trip to the Historic Center in Plainville, as part of an overall effort to connect local history in a more "hands-on" manner. "Our district focus has been on aligning elementary level Social Studies instruction with the State Frameworks and inquiry based learning, and to improve and create more opportunities for students to understand the history of Plainville," explained Murrihy. "The goal was to make the learning experience at the Historic Center more student directed based on areas of interest and create connections from the past to now for relevance." As a result, the group worked together to revamp the third grade annual field trip experience.

"When we got together, we wanted to create an experience that was interactive and engaging, and also connected classroom learning to what the students encountered while visiting the Historic Center," added Graham-Douglas.

The first step was to identify six "areas of interest" of the students, in the context of Social Studies and Plainville's history. Once identified, the focus was on bringing the connection of these areas to "today's world" while visiting the Historic Center. The all-volunteer staff of the Center, under the direction of Eberhardt and Stanley worked tirelessly to provide a meaningful, "hands-on" learning experience to the third graders who visited this spring. Each visit began with an "introduction to the day" in the Historic Center's Courtroom, followed by interactive group rotations through the six areas of interest. The volunteers facilitated rich, engaging, opportunities for learning in each of the areas including: the Kitchen " with volunteers Roberta LaLama and Sue Nelson, the Canal Room " with volunteers Sal Santacroce and Trudy Kijanka, the Tunxis Room " with volunteer Nancy Eberhardt, the Children's Room " with volunteers Jean Pratt, Thea Ricci and Gert LaCombe, the Barn " with volunteer Rachel St. Onge and Gary Eisenhauer, and the Mill " with volunteer Ed Pratt. In addition, the students enjoyed a presentation by Historian Gail Williams who shared interactive stories about African Americans in Plainville, while students acted out various characters.

The updates to the field trip experience were well received by Historical Society members as well. "Everybody was definitely more excited after trying the new format for the field trip visits. Before, our docents only had about 20 minutes to speak to students in each room, and had little time for questions. Now, we have expanded the timeframe in each room, and have modified the exhibits to make them more hands-on, which has really made a positive difference," noted Eberhardt. "We are also very excited about students making the connections in their school classroom learning to the historical information that they learn about Plainville while visiting the Historic Center."

"We shifted from a lecture style to the more interactive, hands-on approach and it was much more engaging. We also have smaller groups of students rotating into each of the areas of the Historic Center rather than working with one large group, which was also a very positive change," added Stanley. "The students were given a choice of their top three rooms to visit " they were hands-on in three rooms and were able to visit the other three rooms with the docent providing information. When the students connected with each other in the larger group, they were engaged in comparing experiences from the various rooms they visited and their perspectives really created some wonderful dialogue."

After the field trips, teachers were positive about the new interactive format and connection to classroom learning, providing feedback to continue to enhance the collaboration and future visits to the Historic Center. "The experience at the Historic Center was an exciting one for our third graders. The interactive tour and activities motivated the students to ask questions about Plainville's history and compare their lives to the lives of Plainville citizens in the past," noted Frank T. Wheeler Elementary School Teacher Maria Hitt.

"I have always loved going to the Plainville Historic Center with my third grade classes over the years. I appreciate learning from the knowledgeable volunteer docents and hearing the pride they all have in the makings of our town," explained Louis Toffolon Elementary School Teacher Debra Camp. "This year, Mrs. Murrihy taught a pre-lesson to my class in preparation for the visit. She introduced my students to a variety of historical documents, photographs and artifacts, which prepared them for the visit. Upon visiting the Historic Center, students were encouraged to explore each of the rooms while asking questions prior to learning interesting information from the volunteers. They were motivated and excited to go from room to room. The enhanced trip made the visit more memorable for students, and I appreciate the work and collaboration that went into making it possible."

-Posted on June 5, 2015 at 03:29 PM

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