In 2004 the Somerville Museum was invited to take part in an exciting new initiative that utilizes resources available at the local history museum as a tool for developing public school curriculum in history and social studies classrooms. Project LOCAL (Learning Our Community’s American Lore) is a teacher training institute implemented by Tufts University Graduate School of Education and the Shore Educational Collaborative in collaboration with the school districts of Everett, Medford, Revere, Somerville and Winthrop.
In most classrooms across the country, history is taught in the “traditional method.” In short, teachers focus on facts and dates that do little to spark student interest. Project LOCAL hopes to change this educational process by helping teachers and students become connected to the history of their local communities through a process of “doing history.”
Project LOCAL teachers will develop curriculum in which students learn to think like and do the work of historians by learning the narrative of American history, the practice of historical research and ways of connecting the national experience to their local community. In exploring history through local sites, students engage in learning about their own lives and communities.
The Museum has now produced three hands-on learning experiences in conjunction with Project LOCAL. “The Vietnam Experience: Somerville during the Vietnam War Era” (2005) and “The Highway and the City: The Story of I-93 and the Inner Belt in Somerville” (2006) were carried out with two 11th grade classrooms led by Somerville High School teacher Alicia Kersten. Following the completion of “The Vietnam Experience” exhibit with her students at the Somerville Museum, Ms. Kersten was named the Gilder-Lehrman Massachusetts History Teacher of the Year.
The most recent Project LOCAL collaboration was carried out with teacher Adda Santos’ ELL classroom made up entirely of students who are immigrants. These students conducted an oral history project in connection with the recent “Immigrant City” exhibit, where their work was displayed alongside that of Tufts University anthropology students.
For more information of Somerville's Projects LOCAL, visit the Tufts University Project Local website.