Discovering area history

Published 10:00 pm Thursday, September 28, 2017

Mentors, 11th-graders team up to teach local 5th-graders

Approximately 350 fifth-graders around the area learned about what life was like from the mid-1800s to early-1900s this week at the Freeborn County Historical Museum & Village.

Discovery History Days were Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.

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The students traveled to stations in the village dedicated to aspects of life during the time period. Categories ranged from occupations, immigration, transportation, hometown entertainment, church and other parts of life during that time period. The fifth-graders were taught by Albert Lea 11th-grade students after the high-schoolers conducted research on history for two weeks.

Adult mentors checked the work the 11th-graders had done and offered feedback.

“They (mentors) are so valuable in helping my kids put their presentations together,” said Albert Lea High School social studies teacher Jim Haney.

Haney described Discover History Days as a “multi-generational project,” with high school students working with older mentors and teaching fifth-graders during the event.

“They get the spectrum of ages to work with,” he said.

Haney credited Linda Evenson of the historical museum for her work in providing primary and secondary documents for students to research. He said the event allows high-school students to learn hands-on history.

“That’s the best way to learn anything, is to taste, touch, smell, feel it, and that’s what they are doing here,” Haney said. “They might not remember a date or some individual history, but they will remember this because they touched it.”

This was the 21st year of the program, which was moved from the spring this year due to the earlier start of school at Albert Lea High School and the amount of students who attend other events at the museum in May.

Alden-Conger fifth-grade teacher Joy Bryson said high school students get her students involved in activities.

“And then they get to do some of the actual activities they had to do back then, and then we cover the unit in our classrooms,” she said. “They are able to relate what they learned here to what we are learning in the classroom.”

Albert Lea senior Brayden Boettcher is in his second year of teaching fifth-graders during Discover History Days, and he enjoys working with the students.

“It was just a lot of fun to do what you want, be a teacher, and teach your kids whatever you want,” he said.

Freeborn County Historical Museum & Village Executive Director Kim Nelson discussed changes made to the event this year, and she mainly credited an increase in family participation at the museum in the last 1 1/2 years to Discovery History Days. She said 11th-graders told her they knew what was being talked about because of prior visits to the museum.

Haney spoke highly of his students.

“I got great kids, and they always come through for me … I’m asking them to do something that is not easy to do, and they are amazing at it,” he said. “I’m not trying to beat my own horn here, but I work with some of the greatest kids in the whole wide world.”

About Sam Wilmes

Sam Wilmes covers crime, courts and government for the Albert Lea Tribune.

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