2016-04-14 / Editorial

Local history – our story

What was it like to live in Saco in 1700? How about in 1800? What would it have been like to be a young teen employed in one of the cotton mills? When was the Revolutionary War and why does that matter? How did people turn cotton, wool and flax into fabric? All of these are among the questions that third- and fourth-graders at C.K. Burns School in Saco may get to ponder in coming days.

It’s no surprise to you (if you’ve read this column before), but Saco Museum just happens to be a fabulous resource for information on local history and the perfect place to go to see the stuff our ancestors owned and used. Located just behind the museum is C.K. Burns School, a place that’s filled with children who are eager to learn about our past, but probably do their best learning when information – like dates and facts – is accompanied by interesting objects and hands-on activities.

It was the combination of those things, a great local museum and a school that wants to provide the best possible education experience for its students – and a generous donation in memory of Dr. Greg Collins – a man who cared very deeply about children and education – that has made possible a new and highly innovative collaboration. Not only does this program involve multiple free fieldtrips to the Saco Museum but also many free visits by our education coordinator, Zoe Thomas, and her intrepid University of New England intern, Kristine McLaughlin, to C.K. Burns’ classrooms. Considering that field trips to distant places like the Museums of Old York typically cost more than $10 a student, plus the cost of bus transportation, and the loss of teaching time during travel, it’s easy to see how a free resource so close to a school can be a financial boon for taxpayers who are funding our schools. We’re serving 370 students. You do the math.

But, of course, it’s not just that this provides a wonderful way for the school to save money. It’s the quality of the teaching that is really what matters. It’s one thing to learn about churning butter on a Saco farm. It’s an entirely different thing to raise and lower the churn dasher over and over and find out that making butter is hard and tedious and to imagine what it would be like if you were the child who had to do that work. It’s one thing to learn that wool comes from sheep. It’s another to handle fleece and smell the lanolin in it and then to try your hand at carding wool. And it’s one thing to know that people were living here 300 years ago, walking in places you walk, but it’s another thing to learn their names and see where their houses were and handle the objects that were theirs. Saco Museum has the resources to provide that kind of enriched instruction to your children.

What all of that does is turn history – our story, our past – from an abstract into a real life experience, memorable, even inspiring. The lasting impact is that those kind of learning experiences change lives. We are so thrilled to have a role in this new collaboration.

Leslie Rounds is executive director of Dyer Library/Saco Museum.

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