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Heritage Classroom: Hands on passage to the past

With the goal of bringing local history to schoolchildren, The Heritage Foundation began providing funding in 1983 for a teacher and a Heritage Classroom.

Even 30-years ago, it was understood, “[Children] need to know about where they live – they need to know what happened in their own backyard,” said Margie Thessin, Heritage Classroom teacher.
Children all across the county have been presented the history of Franklin and Williamson County in their classrooms and on fieldtrips for the past nine years. 
“We have five programs,” available to schools, Thessin said.

Local history takes a seat 
First, Where We Live is designed for students third grade and older. This power point presentation covers the county from prehistoric times, and it explains the Indian tribes who lived here to the 20th century, Thessin said.
Andrew Jackson comes to Franklin introduces third graders and older students to the former president and his famous visit to Franklin at which time he negotiated the Avalon Project, the 1830 treaty between the United States and the Chickasaw Nation.
“This class is interactive – the kids perform a play,” she said. “It makes it a memorable hands on experience.”
The Battle of Franklin, “puts the battle in the context of the [Civil] War,” Thessin noted. 
Children learn about the Civil War by visiting parts of the battlefield that they may have previously walked on or driven by without realizing the land’s significance.
The curriculum is interactive with Thessin pointing out familiar places to students that are now located on the battlefield. 
This, she said, provides young learners with the notion of how much change has taken place during the past 149 years.
Shapes and Numbers is designed for Kindergarten students and first graders. 
Children get a peek of vintage photographs of old Franklin buildings to help them learn about design and architecture.
Thing-a-Ma-Jiggies is a guessing game. Thessin cleverly pulls out her collection of relics from the past, “old-fashioned things” once used in the daily lives of Franklin residents.
The children study the object and try to guess what they are and how they were used—items such as cherry pitters, boot scrapers, apple peelers, tools, fashion items such as hoop skirts and hair receivers. 
“I also take this classroom to nursing homes,” Thessin said. “[The residents] love looking at them and remembering their mother or father using them.”
A Historic Walking Tour of downtown Franklin provides children with a chance to learn, touch and look closely at buildings and their details. They are introduced to the stories of people who once lived, worked and played in what was then the small town of Franklin. 
This tour is also available to the public as part of Franklin on Foot.
I Spy, also available to scout troops and the general public, is a “scavenger hunt for the eyes,” Thessin explained. 
Children and adults are challenged to “look around and find items, like dates and names on buildings and architectural details.”
Beyond the classroom
Thessin provides other public tours, not a part of the Heritage Classroom, but equally fun and interesting for adults and children. 
Classic Franklin grew out of the children’s field trip, but is at also designed for adults.
Civil War Tour visits the downtown sites involved in the federal occupation by Union troops and the Battle of Franklin. 
Haunted Franklin, the most popular tour, introduces folks to several dozen stories of ghosts who still call Franklin home.
Murder and Mayhem provides a look into the once wild, untamed side of Franklin.
On Oct. 26, in conjunction with the Heritage Foundation’s Pumpkin Fest, area cemeteries will come to life with Grave Matters where the dearly departed get a chance to tell their story.
For more information about the programs listed or to reserve a tour, call Margie Thessin at 400-3808.

Posted on: 9/18/2013


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