Administrator’s Corner: Discover History Day at the museum

Published 8:00 pm Friday, April 1, 2022

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Keeping history alive for our students in Albert Lea Area Schools is a passion for Jim Haney, Social Studies Teacher at Albert Lea High School.  The Discover History Day project has been occurring for 24 years.

Tonya Franks

“Juniors and seniors have been researching 12 topic areas in Freeborn County history from 1858-1911.  Some of the topic areas are church, agriculture, school, military, occupations, general store, transportation, music and entertainment, meeting places, craftsperson, immigration and log cabin,” said Jim Haney.

Students in Mr. Haney’s class develop lesson plans that include hands-on activities.  An example of agriculture is showing the 5th grade students how farmers shelled and planted corn during that time period.  Another highlight of Discovery History Day is seeing the upperclassmen in the period costumes.  It really gives them a taste of what Freeborn County was like during that time period.  Contrary to typical teaching format, 5th grade teachers do not explicitly pre-teach this history to the students.  They want the students to have an authentic experience and really feel the magnitude of the day.  

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Students enjoy touring the original buildings onsite at the museum.  A student favorite is exploring the artifacts in the general store and seeing the products that were sold in that time period.  One station is making butter and another is making pancakes.  This experience really opens their eyes in terms of the labor that is involved in daily living and food consumption.  It is a stark contrast to heading to the local grocery store for a stick of butter or box of pancake mix!   They are amazed at how different life was in the 1800s.  Students are also in awe of the different transportation.  The lesson provides students with real-life examples and ties in to the science standard of simple machines.  Anna Wescott, Halverson 5th grade teacher, shares, “Discover History Day really immerses students in what life was like in the 1800s.  The whole day makes you feel like you have stepped back in time.”

Upon returning to school, the following days are filled with sharing and extended learning experiences.  The energy in the classroom vibrates through the walls.  Teachers have access to “Glimpses of Freeborn County, Minnesota:  1930-1980” by Bev Jackson.  This text allows students an extension of their learning through literacy.  Also, students are excited to share what they have learned with their peers since not every 5th grader visits every station.   

Halverson Elementary is thrilled that our students have the opportunity to take part in Discover History Day.  We are grateful for the partnership with Mr. Haney at the ALHS and the Freeborn County Historical Museum.  The enthusiasm that the 5th graders return to school with is unmatched.

Tonya Franks is principal at Halverson Elementary School.