Originally published in Castine Patriot, April 3, 2014
Penobscot Community School focuses on own town for Maine Studies
Volunteer Rose Grindle describes life at school a very long time ago to Penobscot, Maine pre-K and kindergarten students visiting the old schoolhouse at the Penobscot Historical Society in on March 25, 2014.
by Ruby Nash
The Penobscot Comm-unity School has spent the last three weeks focused on its own hometown history.
On March 25 and 26, field trips were made by each grade to visit the Penobscot Historical Society, which includes a general store, schoolhouse, museum, and shed with miscellaneous historical farm equipment.
In the schoolhouse, students sat at desks once occupied by children their age, but of another time. They used small chalkboards similar to those that would have been used, and listened to volunteer Rose Grindle explain what life was like for students of another era. The schoolhouse was donated to the historical society in 2002 by the Harley Bowden family and was moved from its original location near the firehouse to the historical society property in two pieces.
“It took seven minutes for each piece to get up here,” said Audrey Peasley. Peasley works at the historical society, along with her husband, Berwyn. “I went to school in this schoolhouse,” she said. “It was a long time ago.”
The general store houses old tools, such as a scale once used by the local butcher, old products, such as cans still bearing the local Penobscot canning company labels, and the old store design still intact. The floors creak with movement, and one can inspect example pieces of mail from another time held in the old post boxes.
Peasley spoke to about 30 first and second graders about the history of the store and its contents before releasing them to explore on their own. “Some kids learn by touching,” she said. “They were all very polite, very well mannered.”
Chris Tanguay, first and second grade teacher at PCS, was there to supervise. “We have done a lot of ‘then and now’ pictures, showing them the town, how it has changed, how it has stayed the same,” she said, explaining their focus on Penobscot history. “We want them to think about how it compared to [their] own [lives]. We’re trying to connect them to the past. Some of these kids are finding their own [family] names.”
This is the first time PCS has focused on local history for the Maine Studies component of their curriculum. Each year, students in grades K-12 are expected to spend three weeks per semester (or six weeks per school year) studying the state of Maine. This year, Principal Allen Cole and the teachers chose to focus on their town.
“The definition of community has changed,” said Cole. “It’s harder to hang onto the smaller geographic community when you’re able to talk to anyone, anywhere, anytime. It seems important to connect the community with the school, and keep them closely connected. For the most part we’ve been doing well, but we can always do better.”
Other activities for the week included a visit to the local graveyard to do grave rubbings, storytellers, historians, a nature walk, and activities from another era, including historical baking methods and games.