In June of 2008, the community partnership of the Sagadahoc History & Genealogy Room at the Patten Free Library, the Bath Historical Society, and the Black House teachers at Bath Middle School were informed that they had been chosen as one of eight schools in the state to participate in the Maine Community Heritage Project. Over the summer, the team met a number of times to begin planning this extensive project that would eventually involve approximately 60 seventh graders in the creation of 15 exhibits that would showcase the history of Downtown Bath.
Prior to the official kick-off of the project, the team decided that it would be beneficial to assess the students' knowledge of the City of Bath. Students attempted to fill in blank maps of the city, list as many facts as they could recall, and pose thoughtful questions on topics that they were curious about. This initial knowledge inventory would be revisited over the next few months to measure what students were taking away from their research and exposure to Downtown Bath.
On October 1, 2008, the Maine Community Heritage Project in Bath was officially launched with a kick-off designed to immerse students in the history of Bath. Robin Haynes led students on a scavenger hunt of the downtown area, where students had to keep their eyes open for different architectural styles, angels, a skull and crossbones, billboards, and many other unique aspects of Downtown Bath. Students were also given a history lesson on their walk, learning about the change in water levels, the end of the death penalty, and more. Back at the library, Peter Goodwin gave students a peek at the history room, showing them some of the different resources they would be using to complete their research. Finally, students were given an overview of the project from the Maine Historical Society before they were given the opportunity to explore some of the items and exhibits already on the Maine Memory Network.
From October to March, students worked with Dr. Haynes and Dr. Goodwin twice a month, researching the address or block they had been assigned. They looked through numerous directories to find the different businesses that occupied their address over the years. They examined many different maps to see how the buildings at their address had changed shape over the years. The looked at different photographs and postcards to see what those buildings, or people associated with the buildings, looked like. They read newspaper articles, book entries, and newsletters, trying to learn as much as possible about their address. Finally, students had the opportunity to select various images and artifacts that would be used to help illustrate the history in their exhibits.
Back at school, students continued their research using copies of items from the Vertical File in the History Room. Miss Corrigan, Miss Curry, Mr. Meserve, Miss King, and Mrs. Harkins worked closely with students during their Social Studies classes to complete this research. While reading through the various newspaper articles, newsletters, and brochures, students focused on five specific categories of information: People, Construction, Businesses, Events, and Historical Connections. During this time, students were finding the last bits of information they needed to write about the history of their address.
In March, students began the writing process, trying to piece together everything they had learned since October. After numerous recording forms and outlines were compiled, students wrote the first draft of the text for their exhibit. In the two months that followed, students completed many revisions and edits, trying to perfect their writing to be the best that a 7th grader is capable of producing.
At the beginning of May, students started building their exhibits. Using the Exhibit Builder tool provided on the Maine Memory Network, students pieced together paragraph after paragraph, bringing in the images they chose at the Patten Free Library, trying to create an exhibit that is both informative and eye-catching. With the final product complete, many students are excited to share their exhibits with the world.