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Hunter: Learning About The Past

01/07/10 7:55AM By Edith Hunter
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(HOST) For commentator Edith Hunter, the start of a New Year inspires thoughts of both past and future - and how teaching history to children is a function of both.

(HUNTER) Weathersfield is fortunate in having a wonderfully readable Town History. Even so, soon after it was  published in the 1970s, I was told that it was difficult for teachers who were to teach Weathersfield history to extract appropriate material for use in the classroom.

Since I had written children's books, I decided that as soon as we stopped publishing our weekly newspaper in 1986, I would write a history of Weathersfield for young people to be used in the schools. Working with the teachers I had a book ready by 1989.

More importantly, there was a teacher ready to teach Weathersfield history to her 4th graders. She was relatively new to town and eager herself to know more about its history.

For six weeks every fall the 4th graders explore Weathersfield history, beginning with the glaciers that once covered Mt Ascutney and carved out Lake Hitchcock and the bed of the Connecticut River. There is also material about the two industries that figured in Weathersfield history - the limestone and soapstone industries.

The students are fascinated to figure out which of the 13 District schools they would have attended. Each student has an individual project - the old house they live in, something special about a Weathersfield landmark, or perhaps further research on an historic Weathersfield figure.

And at the end of the six weeks, the class takes a bus tour of Weathersfield. They visit at least one of our 13 cemeteries where they delightedly find the graves of some of our eminent men and women. They drive past the location of many of our 13 District Schools, past the homes of some of our most famous former leaders, and past the rock leading up to the cave where the Weathersfield panther lived. All of this familiar scenery now has enriched meaning for them.

The bus trip concludes with its arrival in Weathersfield Center, which, thanks to the conservation of the land around the Center, looks much as it looked in the early 19th century after the brick meeting house was built and the Rev. Dan Foster House had assumed its current appearance. The Dan Foster House was the home of the first settled minister in 1785, and an early inn by 1825. It is now the museum and library of the Weathersfield Historical Society.

The children have a picnic lunch on the steps of the old meeting house, and then pay their respects to the Weathersfield panther whose current lair is upstairs in the Dan Foster House.

How fortunate Weathersfield is to have its history passed on so enthusiastically to future generations.
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