Lead Mines, Canals and Crashes: Digging into Local History

Soho History (2)
I’ve written before about my co-teacher, and here is another example of how his ideas and my ideas play off each other so nicely. We’re reading Regarding the Fountain by Kate Klise with our co-taught class right now. The plot has to do with a fifth grade class doing research on the local history of their town, and uncovering a plot of fishy intrigue.

Bob, my co-teacher, thought we should do some research on our own town and then let the kids build a timeline of sorts of local historical episodes. Of course! So, I dug around the town’s website for some information, and Bob found a book that was published in the 1970’s by the town’s Historical Commission. We cobbled together a small packet of information, created a timeline that was missing either dates or information, and then had then work in teams to fill in the timeline. From there, they had to then create a placemat of the history of the town, organized in any way they wanted.
Soho History
Not only were the kids interested in the history of the community, they were fully engaged in all steps of the project, which took about thirty minutes. It was just one of the lessons that comes together collaboratively, and sparks something in the students that is just wonderful to watch. They were learning about history, using information reading for a realistic goal, creating timelines of information and collaborating together. That’s a nice bit of learning going on.  Not every lesson is like that, that’s for sure. But this one was.

Here are few things they didn’t know about their town but now do:

  • The town became a town because of a Lead Mine operation;
  • The New Haven-Northampton Canal ran right through the town, and when that shut down, the railroad followed. Now that is shut down, and the hope is for a bike trail (which is controversial in the town);
  • Sen. Ted Kennedy was once hurt in a plane crash (and the pilot died) in some fields not too far from the school;
  • The movie “Whose Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” (with Richard Burton) shot some scenes in a local restaurant in town;
  • An adjacent city tried to annex the town in the 1960s but failed when the town used its political might to fend off the plot (which led to cheers from the students when we talked about it).

Peace (in the discovery),

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