ADAMS, Mass. — Fifty-two students in Deborah Calderara's history classes at Berkshire Arts & Technology Charter Public School are learning history through studying architecture – family homes, town buildings, factories and other facilities throughout the county.
The students will present their work to the community at the first-ever BArT History Fair on Thursday, May 24, from 6 to 7 p.m.
The fair is the culminating event of a yearlong project funded by the National Endowment for the Arts. Students created models of their sites, such as the Susan B. Anthony home and Fort Massachusetts, and will accompany these with PowerPoint demonstrations, photographs, maps and timelines.
Students spent the first trimester learning about various buildings and communities. Calderara invited several local historians into her classes. Those conversations gave students a preview of the types of information they could find during their own research.
Both Calderara and BArT arts program coordinator Brian O’Grady worked with the students to choose a site and gather, record, and analyze historical data for their projects.
"This program really came about as a result of looking for different ways to engage our students with local history and to teach modern research methods," said Calderara.
During the second trimester, the students began their research. They were asked to choose a particular building or parcel of land and gather information. O’Grady and Calderara encouraged the students to get creative in their research. Students visited local libraries, registries of deeds, hospitals and nearly vacant buildings. They interviewed community leaders and residents. One student even found a trove of 18th-century diaries in a family member’s attic.
“We encouraged the students to utilize everything at their disposal,” said O’Grady.
“I was really impressed,” said Calderara. “They weren’t afraid to pick up the phone or visit a site. One of the key lessons of this project is learning how to research. It’s a critical skill to have in college and the work force.”
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