New school programs in Wiscasset, Maine
Historic New England recently piloted two new education programs at Castle Tucker and Nickels-Sortwell House in Wiscasset, Maine. A Tale of Two Houses: Wiscasset in the 1800s is a history-focused program for upper elementary school students studying local and/or state history. Students create a timeline of area history between 1800 and 1900. As they explore both Castle Tucker and Nickels-Sortwell House, they fill in their timeline with details about both houses and the people who lived in them, discovering how large historical events, such as Jefferson’s Embargo, the Civil War, and the rise of tourism, affected real people. Fifth grade students from Wiscasset Middle School were impressed, saying, “It felt like we went back in time” and “It was cool to be standing in the very house that people lived in a long time ago”.
The second program, In Search of a Story: The Children of Castle Tucker, is language arts-based and geared to a middle school audience. A visit to Castle Tucker is the centerpiece of a unit that includes researching and writing a short piece of historic fiction using one of the five Tucker children as a main character. Seventh grade students from Wiscasset Middle School were the first participants in this program. They seemed especially taken with the oldest boy, Richard Tucker III (Dick), his love of nature, and his interest in taxidermy. Many wrote their stories based on his collections, which remain on display in the family’s billiards room. Like several of his classmates, J.D. Souza was particularly fascinated by Dick’s collection of eggs, and in his story imagines how the collection was started: “The first interest I ever had in the outdoors was when I was four and a half years old. I found my first robin egg in the tree near the garden by the front steps. I was playing tag with my two favorite sisters, Mame and Patty. I stopped and looked at the blue egg. Wow! I thought. What if I could collect more of these? Maybe I could even collect different types of bird eggs, too.” J.D. goes on to intertwine details of Dick’s biography with his pursuit of new eggs for his collection.
The pilot phase of both programs continues through fall 2011, as participating teachers from Wiscasset Middle School and education staff from Historic New England refine the programs, and will be available to a wider audience in late spring 2012. For more information, please contact Carolin Collins, education program manager for Historic New England, at CCollins@HistoricNewEngland.org or 617-994-5938.