Students Showcase Innovative Projects at Park for Every Classroom Celebration

Saltonstall teacher, Beth White, with students at the PEC showcase

For the seventh year, teachers and students participating in the “Park for Every Classroom” program offered by Essex Heritage and the National Park Service have completed projects that utilize the rich heritage resources of the region. 

The educators worked with their students and community partners to implement unique projects that align with curriculum, engage in their local place, and serve a “real world” need. Andover 6th grade teacher, Emily Thompson, remarked about her students’ project, which creates awareness of issues related to the Shawsheen River, “As we move forward into our last weeks, the students are getting inspired. They want to teach others what they have learned. I think that is the best possible outcome. I feel that I’ve more securely tethered them to their town.”

Seven hundred eighteen students were served by the program this year. One of those students, eighth grader Connor Clyne from Saltonstall School in Salem whose project documented youth engagement with the Punto urban art museum, said,  “This project really helped us connect with the Point community that is right outside our school.”  Connor Clyne, along with other students, teachers and community partners showcased their work at the Salem Visitor Center on June 5 in a celebratory event. Beth Beringer is the Director of Education for Essex Heritage, and oversees the program. “It is wonderful to see how excited students get to be contributing to their local communities in this project work. The program inspires teachers, students and community partners come together to inspire civic engagement and action, building skills and knowledge along the way.”

The following is a list of the projects completed this year:

●       Andover:

o   6th grade students at Andover West Middle School have been working diligently to get their community engaged with their local river, the Shawsheen. These students have been studying ancient river civilizations and have connected the global history of the importance of rivers to their own local example. Through interactions with multiple community partners including Andover’s Conservation Commission, Groundwork Lawrence, and Shawsheen Greenway/ Andover Trails, the students identified several issues that they wanted to address.  They are educating the community about ways to help minimize invasive species along the river, submitting a proposal for a Herring Festival, creating awareness about recreational opportunities along the river, and finding ways to limit plastic and other pollution in the river.  Teacher—Emily Thompson

●       Beverly:

o   Beverly Middle School 8th graders have been learning about the hidden history of slavery in their city by becoming historians themselves and analyzing important primary documents housed at Historic Beverly. Through this exploration, students started to piece together compelling narratives, particularly related to the family of a remarkable enslaved Beverly woman, Juno Larcom, who successfully petitioned for her freedom.  Students learned first-hand how trans-Atlantic slavery played a role in the creation of wealth in their city, and also explored artifacts related to the abolition movement in Beverly. After conducting this research, students created and performed expressive monologues to respond to the material and create empathy for the real people touched by this difficult history. Selected students will share their works at Beverly’s Race Amity Day event at the Beverly Public Library. Teacher—Brian Bayer-Larson

●       Ipswich:

o   High School students in Ipswich conducted a cross-disciplinary exploration of the fishing industry that is such an important part of the heritage of the North Shore region. They studied the topic with both a marine biology and art focus, paying special attention to using close observation as they learned about the interplay between humans and the marine environment. During a field experience at Maritime Gloucester they explored the history of the industry, dissected squids to understand their biology, and created art with plankton as they learned about its importance in the marine ecosystem.  Students identified several contemporary issues related to the industry, including declining fish stocks.   Teacher—Gail Pepe

●       Manchester-Essex:

o   6th grade students at Manchester-Essex Middle School have been working on multiple service-learning projects this year that connect with their study of United Nations’ global goals. Example projects include inviting veterans to discuss their experiences and then creating a display of local artifacts related to veterans’ service while collecting supplies for Operation Troop Support; learning about hunger issues and organizing a food drive for Beverly Bootstraps; and designing a garden to align with environmentally sound practices.  Teacher—Vidula Plante

●       Salem:

o   Third grade students from Witchcraft Heights Elementary School have been learning about the rights and responsibilities of being engaged citizens in their community, and have focused their project work on immigration in Salem.  They have heard from multiple speakers who talked about their own experiences as immigrants, and have encouraged members of their own classroom community to share their stories. They partnered with Salem’s House of the Seven Gables Settlement Association, which continues a long-standing tradition of welcoming new immigrants to the city. Students created mementos for newly naturalized citizens who will take part in a ceremony at the Gables. Teachers—Carolyn O’Malley and Maureen Recene 

o   Students in 8th grade at Saltonstall School are bringing youth voice to the innovative outdoor museum in their city. They toured the North Shore Community Development Coalition’s urban art museum in the Point Neighborhood, Punto, and then met with kindergarten buddies, using digital images of the murals to get reactions to the artwork from these young learners.  The students also interviewed artists who created the murals and interacted with a panel of professionals who are involved in the art scene and publishing. They will pull together their insights by providing a kid’s point of view for deeper engagement with the museum via the creation of interactive tech-based guides and books. Teacher—Beth White

o   Salem High School English Language Learning students are creating ways to make more inclusive stories about recent immigration in Salem visible. Community leaders led the students on tours of Salem’s Point neighborhood, traditionally a place where new arrivals to Salem have lived. During these tours, students were encouraged to think about places that they consider to be integral to their community and its more recent history.  After learning about how to conduct authentic historic research, students are creating audio tours that can be accessed online so that the public can become more aware of recent immigration, especially the history of immigrants from the Caribbean.  In this way, students are both serving their community while also becoming more connected to their city. Teacher—Omar Longus

o   Salem Academy high school students have worked with rangers at Salem Maritime National Historic Site to think of ideas for making the stories and activities there even more inclusive. After meeting with rangers and visiting the site multiple times, the students created videos expressing their ideas for what they would love to see at the park. These include ideas for representing Latino, African-American and women’s history more prominently, and finding ways to address issues related to climate change. Teacher—Davia Moore 

●       Saugus:

o   8th grade students from Saugus Middle School are learning about what makes their town special as they create an online gallery that highlights Saugus history.  The students are touring landmarks in the city, including Saugus Iron Works National Historic Site, and are learning how to use technology to bring more awareness of Saugus’ unique heritage to a younger audience.    Teachers—Anmarie Griffin and Brad Harvey