By Stephen Seitz
LUDLOW—With the aid of the Black River Academy Museum, sixth-grade students at Ludlow Elementary have been studying their town’s history by living some of it.
Last Saturday, the students shared what they learned with the public in a walking tour of the town. Students dressed in period costume and portrayed Ludlow residents from the town’s past.
Teacher Heidi Baitz said she often uses the museum as a resource for her history students, working with museum director Georgia Brehm.
“I went to Georgia and said, ‘I’ve got an idea for something in the spring,’ and she said, ‘Can you do it on September 19?'” Baitz explained. “That gave us two weeks. I wanted something to do in town, and we wanted to do a fun project together.”
The students were shown photographs of various houses around town and asked to choose the building they found the most interesting, and to research its history.
Haley Racicot played Judge Reuben Washburn, an attorney who was graduated from Dartmouth College in 1808. He established his law practice in Ludlow in 1825, and lived in a Greek Revival style home in the center of town. Vermont historians know him today as the father of Civil War general and Vermont governor Peter T. Washburn.
“Everybody got a historic building and an important person,” said Haley. “After we found the information, we wrote the monologues and memorized them.”
Logan Farnum got to research A.F. Sherman, one of Ludlow’s early pharmacists, whose original store is now a home on Pleasant Street in Ludlow.
Speaking as Sherman, Farnum said, “I won’t sell tobacco because of the terrible effect it has on boys.”
“I learned a lot from the Internet,” Farnum said, “but we had to go to the historical society, too.”
Josh MacPherson portrayed one of the most significant people in Ludlow’s history: Abraham Adams, one of Ludlow’s early home builders.
“He was a contractor, and he build a lot of homes in this area,” MacPherson said.
Baitz said the students had to hit the books to fully research their characters.
“If you just look up ‘Vermont’ on the Internet, you’ll find lots of information,” she said, “but there’s very little information on specific people on the Internet. We did use Ancestry.com.”
Brehm said she had done similar projects with other schools.
“We’ve done this in the past with several students,” she said. “Actually, Ludlow Elementary students designed and built a barn interior for the museum, and they also did an exhibit on Tropical Storm Irene.”
“This project is the first one for this class,” Baitz said.
In education circles, a project like this comes under the category of community-based learning. Under this philosophy, students learn by using their community as a learning laboratory—getting out of the classroom and doing field work, consulting resources outside the school, and, in this case, learning about local history by telling the stories of those who lived there in the past.
“We’re connecting the kids to the community,” Baitz said.
More information about the museum and its programs can be found at bramvt.org.