Friday, April 1, 2011

6th Graders Learn Research Tools at the Brick Store Museum

When choosing subjects for biographical research, middle school students often choose sports figures or heroes from American history. The Kennebunk names William Lord, Isaac Emery, Eliza Bourne, and Nathaniel Lord Thompson do not make the list. However, in early March, two of Mrs. Laurie Jacques’ 6th grade Language Arts classes and the Brick Store Museum approached biography research from a unique perspective. Students learned about a wealthy merchant (Lord), a Civil War soldier (Emery), a famous mother and seamstress (Bourne), and a young ship captain and ship builder (Thompson).
The program began with a visit to each class from the Museum’s Acting Director, Cheryl Price, who introduced the topic of primary/secondary/tertiary sources and ways to glean information from photographs, newspapers, and other sources. Students were also introduced to the Museum’s website and finding aids for materials available in the Museum’s Archives.
The next day, members of the Museum’s Education Committee brought archival resources and artifact images to the classroom and helped students discover information about local historical figures. The class was divided into four groups, and each group investigated a different person with the help of a Museum instructor. The students read journal entries, personal letters, reference books, etc. to find answers to a series of guiding questions about their person.
The following Saturday, students attended a special open house at the Museum. They were given the opportunity to see many of the actual artifacts they’d seen in pictures during class, toured the Museum’s Archives, and at least one student asked a research question and observed the process in finding the answer.
“This was a wonderful way to reach out to a number of students in an age group that we haven’t worked with as much in the past,” said Price. “We offer vacation workshops, summer programs, and have taught a ‘Hands on History’ class through the RSU 21 Stretch Beyond program, but usually these programs are attended by younger kids. It’s important for the older students to know that we can be a resource for them.”
The program was declared a success by all involved, and Jacques would like to offer it next year to all of her Language Arts classes.
Photo caption: Students in Mrs. Laurie Jacques’ sixth grade Language Arts class investigate merchant William Lord with help from Brick Store Museum Education Committee chairperson Jackie Campbell. MSK Principal Jeff Rodman looks on. (Photo courtesy Brick Store Museum)