Friday, June 4, 2010

Traveling Through Time to Raise Awareness of Counting House Museum

A group of third grade students at Central School has been working on a service-learning project with the Old Berwick Historical Society to build an awareness of the Counting House Museum as a family destination to learn about the history of the town. Katherine Bousquet’s class began working on this project earlier this spring.
“Service learning is unique,” said Bousquet. “Children enter an actual partnership with someone in the community to solve an existing problem. Thus, service! At the same time, the work the students do must be related to the curriculum and the goals for learning!”
Students met with historical society volunteers and learned that while the museum receives many visitors each year, the number of families with children was fewer than what the museum had hoped. The students worked together to come up with ideas and plans for how they might reach families in the community and spark an interest in visiting the Counting House.
“They’re so creative,” said historical society president Wendy Pirsig of the children’s ideas. “And the students have really dedicated themselves to this valuable project of getting the word out about the museum as a community resource.”
The decision to host a booth at South Berwick’s second annual Kids’ Day on June 5 in was made by the students in an effort to raise community awareness. After numerous trips to the Counting House, research online and in books, visits to other local historic sites such as the Hamilton House and the Sarah Orne Jewett House and the annual Hike Through History at Central School, the children used their knowledge to develop fun and educational activities for a booth at Kids’ Day.
There will be a range of activities from learning about and making a toy that a child in the 1800’s would have played with, to hand-sewing their own initial. Visitors can enjoy a skit of what it was like to be a mill worker in the 1800’s and learn a dance from the time period. There will even by an “I Spy at the Counting House” book where they find, identify and discover information about objects from the past.
In the words of Erica Bergendahl, “Being at the museum, I felt like I was back in history.”
In addition to the activities, there will be a brochure pertaining to the museum written for kids by kids.
“We want families to visit the museum,” said Jake Doyle, another pupil. “It is not like an ordinary museum, it is all about our town.”
Through this project, the students were able to become actively engaged in their town, as well as learn the value of community involvement.
“Many people donated their time and talents to making this project a success,” said Bousquet. “It was the volunteers from the Counting House, Kids’ Day, the parents of the students and the support of teachers at Central that have enabled the students to learn so much and to accomplish their goal.”
Fiona Scharff said, “This service learning project shows me that if we all work together we can do amazing things.”
The students hope that by seeing how fun and interesting history can be at their booth, kids and their families will take a trip to visit the museum this summer.
The Counting House Museum is open Saturdays and Sundays from 1 to 4 p.m. from June through October. Admission is free.
Photo caption: Katherine Bousquet and her students visited the Counting House Museum recently. They have developed skits, brochures and a booth at Kids Day to raise awareness of the museum as a family destination. (Courtesy photo)