Elodie Reed, St. Albans Messenger
‘We want to plant the idea that they can go to college.’
ST. ALBANS — Coming together and learning from each other is as old as time itself.
So when Advanced Placement U.S. History students from Bellows Free Academy worked with the St. Albans Historical Society and Museum to put on the History Olympics for St. Albans City School students on Thursday morning, they took part of one of history’s main traditions.
Students were sprinkled all over Taylor Park’s green lawn yesterday, excited to be learning and energetic with their peers. The BFA seniors set up eight historically economical activities that children may have done in the 1800s in America, in Vermont, and in St. Albans, and groups of sixth graders competed to win each task.
In addition to simulating work such as building a railroad, using a telegraph, completing household chores and being part of a 19th century fire brigade, the city school students had to answer historical questions that were researched by the BFA students. At the end of the event, medals were handed out to the first, second and third place teams of students.
According to David Rider, the BFA students’ AP U.S. History teacher, the goal of the day was threefold: for the students to have fun, learn history, and build community. By the end of the event, smiles, new knowledge and new friends indicated success.
“I’m very excited about continuing to forge great community relationships,” Rider said Thursday. He added that he’d like something like Thursday’s event to be repeated each year.
The History Olympics came together in about two months time, with the majority of the work having been done by the BFA students, who were done with their AP exam in early May.
“We’ve had three weeks,” Rider said. In addition to providing a good project for his current students, it was Rider’s hope that, through this activity, sixth graders at city school would get a taste for the rigorous courses offered at BFA, classes that could take them past a high school education.
“We want to get the first gen[eration] kids, we want to plant the idea that they can go to college,” Rider said.
Rider pointed out that the collaboration between himself, Tess Bashaw of St. Albans City School, and the historical museum’s director, Alex Lehning, is what made the History Olympics so successful. Bashaw worked with Rider to make the two schools able to come together, and Lehning provided historical research support and help with materials for the day’s eight activities.
“It’s place-based learning, integrated learning, students teaching students,” Lehning said Thursday. “If you could put our mission statement in an image, it would be this.”
Lehning added that the museum recently received grant funding to do classroom-related activities, which is what sparked the initial conversation about the History Olympics event. It turned out to be a great first activity.
“We’re really excited,” Lehning said of the program and possibilities ahead.