Friday, May 18, 2012

Unique Hike through History Explores Childhood at Sites in Two States

Ringing the factory bell that summoned youth before there were child labor laws.  Shelling peas, and scrubbing clothes in a washtub like a French Canadian immigrant family 100 years ago.  Reciting classroom lessons learned in the 1800s by a student who became one of Maine’s most famous authors, Sarah Orne Jewett.
About 190 eighth graders from Marshwood Middle School and 30 third graders from Central School have been preparing for these activities by researching real local residents from the past.  They readied themselves to teach some 600 younger elementary students in preparation during the Hike through History on May 18. 
Eighth graders were especially enthusiastic as they prepared for the Hike through History in recent days. Abby Corriveau recalled her own experience on the Hike back when she was in Central School grader, saying, "It is great to be working on something that I was involved in when I was little, and help all the kids learn about history."
Andrew Bennington moved to the school district after third grade and thus has never experienced a Hike throughHistory. "I'm excited to be experiencing an awesome event for the first time as the teacher, and to help the kids learn."
Tabitha Fiorentini said, "The planning of Hike Through History is teaching me a lot. Hopefully all our work will pay off!"
"It's tough to put this together," Nicolas Ciampa admitted, "but I'm excited for the final result that'll be educational and fun for the kids."
For the past 18 years, Central School’s annual Hike through History has been a collaboration with the Old Berwick Historical Society.  The event is led by teachers, older students and volunteers, at little financial expense.
“The Hike provides engaging, authentic local history resources to introduce students to history studies using actual places and people of our own community,” said Nicole St. Pierre, curriculum coordinator for the Old Berwick Historical Society who is teaming up with Pamela Mulcahey, a Central School teacher who coordinates the Hike through History.
“The theme of this year's Hike is Childhood,” St. Pierre continued.  “Kids will be focusing on the idea of how children of the past contributed to their families, schools, and communities.”
“Both the eighth grade and third grade interpreters do a fantastic job, first conducting their own historical research, and then communicating what they learn to a younger audience,” she added.
This year's Hike through History planned to circulate throughout downtown South Berwick, including the Sarah Orne Jewett House and the new South Berwick Library. Taking advantage of their school’s location on the Maine/New Hampshire border, the route would also cross a bridge over a historic waterfall to follow the footsteps of factory workers at the Salmon Falls Manufacturing Company in Rollinsford, NH.  Eighth-grade interpreters were assigned to meet the young children, explain how cloth was made under difficult working conditions, and demonstrate life in a boarding house.
Along the way, children would also have fun tasting the wares of a bakery and confectionery, shopping for 1910 fashions, and enjoying an amusement park like that once operated by the trolley company.
Central School and Berwick Academy third graders prepared for the Hike by attending a special program at the Counting House Museum in early May, where they experienced a simulated school classroom of Miss Olive Raynes, a South Berwick teacher in the 1800s.
Counting students, teachers and families, the number of Hike through History participants is about 1000.  Historic New England, South Berwick Public Library, and owners of the historic properties along the route also have collaborated. 
Most of the Hike through History route travels through districts listed on the National Register of Historic Places in Maine and New Hampshire.
This year’s Hike preparations sawimprovements over past years. Staffing has allowed better integration of teachers’ educational goals with historic materials from the archives of the society’s Counting House Museum, and written plans to support the program’s continuation in the future. A supportive website,, has also been created. Funding for the improvements was provided by grants from the Davis Family and Marshwood Education Foundations. (courtesy photo)