May 24, 2011

History is everywhere -- you just have to look

North School fourth graders Jordan Bergeron, left, and Nathan Cripe, look for history scavenger hunt answers on the New Castle Bunker Hill Revolutionary War monument at the town common.

 By CAROL ROBIDOUX                                                                                                               
Union Leader Correspondent
LONDONDERRY --  A pack of kids swarmed the town common Wednesday like a mob of fourth-grade scavengers on the hunt for history. 
North School students search the artillery for a clue
about when it was made.
Mostly because they were a mob of fourth graders, from North School, wrapping up day one of their school-sanctioned historical scavenger hunt.
“Look, look — there! It’s a ‘V.’ That must stand for Vietnam,” said one of the students, rubbing her index finger over the worn gun metal gray paint of a bygone relic.
“Wait. No, wait! It says 1907. Was that Vietnam?” asked a classmate, standing 

nearby. The group of about eight students, all holding clipboards and pencils, huddled closer to the faded inscription on the heavy metal artillery parked in the center of town.
North School teacher Regan Deignan, second from right
helps her students unravel their town history.
Fourth-grade teacher Liz Anderson to the rescue.
“Actually, if you think about that date — 1907 — what would that tell you?” Anderson said, in that leading teachery-type voice that tells you the answer is just within reach, if you just think a little harder.
“If that gun was made in 1907, which war do you think it might have been used in?” Anderson asked the group.
“World War One?” came a quizzical voice from the crowd, and with that, a series of invisible light bulbs clicked on over top eight
 heads. They all began writing simultaneously on clipboards before dashing off toward the next historical monument.
There really is no better way to engage students in their communities than to introduce them to the pieces of history scattered, like unmarked treasure for all to see, in plain view, said teacher Regan Deignan, who joined Anderson for the team-teacher take on history.
Of course, what fourth-grade field trip would be complete without a stop at the old town tavern — White’s Tavern, that is, famous for its Presidential pedigree, including stopovers by Presidents Andrew Jackson, Franklin Pierce, James Polk and storied statesman Daniel Webster, among others.
“White’s Tavern was a popular pit stop for travelers between Concord and Boston. They’d change out their horses there,” said Deignan. “It’s really hard for the kids to picture how things used to be. These kinds of trips, where we can tell stories and bring history to life for them, really help.”
Next week the students will head to Strawbery Banke Museum in Portsmouth for a glimpse into Colonial life, said Deignan.
“Today we also drove by Frost Farm, and we visited the Morrison House,” Deignan said, of the pre-revolutionary home-turned-museum on Pillsbury Road. “We have had a great trip so far. Even the bus driver learned something today.”
From behind the wheel of the idling school bus Sherrie Bolding, of New Boston, nodded
 in the affirmative. “Really a fun trip. There are a lot of things I didn’t know about Derry and Londonderry,” she said.
She wasn’t the only one who scored big on the scavenger
 “I learned there are a lot of people in Londonderry who are famous but don’t get spoken about,” said Sarah Duarte.
“And a lot of places in Londonderry that a lot of people don’t get to see,” added Jenna Sullivan.

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