Hands-on History

What a pleasure it is to report the successful launch of a joint project involving Iowa History students at Marion High School, your Historical Society and the Friends of Oak Shade Cemetery. Thanks to an enthusiastic interest in Iowa and local history by MHS history teacher, Jonathan Mitchell, the first week-long unit was conducted during the first week of April this year. The project, suggested by Mitchell and developed with input by the Friends’ History Committee, is designed to give students hands-on experience in researching the history of former residents of Marion.

Here is an outline: Following a general introduction to the Historical Society and Friends organizations, their functions and resources, students, working in pairs, draw the name of a person buried at Oak Shade Cemetery. The first task “in the field” is to locate the subject’s grave – no small challenge in a cemetery with 7,700 graves spread out over 22 acres. Once found, students must document their success with a photo (see photo of Ethan Hangartner and Elliot Dryland) before moving on to the research phase.

That assignment, with the goal of creating a brief biography of the individual, is conducted at internet resources, on the students time in the Heritage Center library and/or with the aid of our many history books including those authored by Judith Hull. Submission of an original biographic sketch completes the unit but extra credit is allowed to students who go on to portray their deceased subject by telling “their own story” in period attire.

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