Erving event connects youth to local history 

  • Erving Elementary School librarian Jane Urban holds a map as student Eben Gordon points to where a past resident of Erving lived. He read the census report about that family at the Erving Senior Center on Tuesday. Recorder Staff/Paul Franz

  • David Brule of the Erving Historic Commission talks to adults and Erving Elementary School about the geological and cultural evolution of the Connecticut River Valley at the Erving Senior Center on Tuesday. June 13, 2017. Recorder Staff/Paul Franz

  • Erving Elementary School librarian Jane Urban talks about local history to students and adults at the Erving Senior Center on Tuesday. June 13, 2017. Recorder Staff/Paul Franz

  • Erving Elementary School Students and adults celebrated Erving's History with talks and cake on Tuesday. June 13, 2017. Recorder Staff/Paul Franz

  • Erving Elementary School students walk to the Erving Senior Center on Tuesday. June 13, 2017. Recorder Staff/Paul Franz

Recorder Staff
Published: 6/14/2017 10:20:41 PM

ERVING — As third-grader Jaylice Gary stood in front of her classmates at the Erving Senior Center, she read the details of the life of an Erving woman whose experiences are far different than her own. The woman lived in Erving long ago, and had a husband, children and connections to the mills that used to provide most of the employment in the region.

Jaylice’s presentation one was of several made to Erving Elementary students, Erving seniors and other residents was part of a grant project the school has been coordinating since January.

The students read census data from the late 1800s, found records of area residents and located where they lived on old maps of the town. They pieced together information about previous residents’ lives and pinpointed where they had lived.

Through a program coordinated by the school’s library and a Massachusetts Cultural Council grant, the classes worked with local historian Sara Campbell over five sessions where they studied census records, toured the historical commission and town hall and learned about what life in Erving looked like in years past.

The presentations on Tuesday by the first-, third- and fourth-graders served as a way to cap off the project and show what they’ve learned about local history in the process.

The first-grade class also spent time at the senior center interviewing seniors about what their childhoods were like in Erving and the area.

Paula Betters, the director of the senior center, said the activity served the students and the seniors beyond the educational aspect. She said the kids really responded to the seniors stories.

“They had so much fun … some of the ladies were crying, some of the students were so moved,” she said, adding that some of the students don’t have grandparents at home, and that an activity like this can serve as a small substitute.

Jane Urban, the school’s librarian who helped coordinate the grant and plan the activities, said that by connecting broader history with local history, it can help it feel real and relatable for children. While it can be difficult to convey what life was like in different time periods, projects like this can help make history more relevant to students.

“They got a sense of the past, that there was something here before they were,” she said.

Beyond the five courses each classroom received, the grant for $2,700 also covered the purchase and printing costs of several large vintage maps of the Erving area for continued classroom use. Tuesday also included a presentation by David Brule about Native Americans in the area and pre-colonial Erving.

Urban said that while it’s unfortunate that it is a one year grant, they want to see where the project goes and ways they can continue it.

“We thought we were going to be able to cover a lot,” she said. “But we just scratched the surface.”

Reach Miranda Davis
at 413-772-0261, ext. 280


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