Pierce column: Giving history a voice around the county

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, November 23, 2011

History has a voice. You can hear it if you listen!
If you know me well, you will know that social studies is my favorite subject, and it can easily be integrated with other subjects. I volunteer my time as a docent at our county’s 1766 Old Stone House, at the Rowan Museum and at the North Carolina Transportation Museum. What started as a hobby has become a teaching passion that spills over into my school.
Many of the children see my gray hair and actually believe I am old enough to have lived at the historic sites. While explaining the components of my costume one day, a child said, “So, tell us about your white wig.”
The newest history adventure I have been privileged to be part of is Cruisin’ Carolina, started by the fourth-grade leadership at Overton Elementary School. Each month, the students and their extended families meet at local historic sites to hear stories, tour the grounds, and educate families. On our recent tour of the historic Hall House in downtown Salisbury, a student asked, “Why is there a candelabra on the mantle”?
The costumed docent replied, “A candle in front of a mirror reflects more than a candle alone.” I thought that is true of life! For ideas on how to start your own club, you may contact Kathy Green, Overton’s Media Specialist and Pam Rutherford, Overton’s 2010 Teacher of the Year.
Being familiar with history is important when writing across the curriculum. While I was making history booklets with a group of children, I asked one of the students if he was going to color his pictures and he replied, “No, this picture shows what it was like back in the days of black and white.”
There are numerous local opportunities for children and adults to study Rowan County’s history. I would encourage you to take advantage of them to learn more:
• Historic Salisbury Foundation and Rowan Museum: Opportunities for you to visit wonderful sites around Salisbury. Contact Mark Bias at the Depot. I attended their classes for CEU credit and it was an awesome experience that gave me access to historic sites that I had never seen before!
• The Rowan History Club: Open to all persons interested in the history of Rowan County. The meetings are held at 7 p.m. (second Tuesday of each month) in the Messinger Room on the second floor of the Rowan Museum located at 202 N. Main St. Teachers receive one CEU if they attend all 10 meetings.
• Tar Heel Junior Historian Association: Sponsored by the North Carolina Museum of History. Established in 1953, and membership is free to all middle school and high school students! Students learn by talking to a senior citizen, visiting a factory or farm, reading an old newspaper, examining an artifact and contributing to their communities. Many of North Carolina’s junior historians have received national recognition for their outstanding achievements.
• Summer History Camps: The camps are offered to elementary and middle school children. Students weave, write with feather pens, make candles, tour various local historic sites, cook over an open fire, and tell wonderful stories. Contact Kaye Hirst or Tricia Creel at the Rowan Museum for more information.
As teachers, we are always looking for ways to find more time. Our local museums are giving us the gift of time when they help educate our children. More than once, I have identified a student who has been through history camp because they have a deeper knowledge of local lore. As educators, how wonderful to have an opportunity to learn more and get teacher CEUs. As a volunteer, I cannot over- emphasize the rewards of taking part in all of these wonderful opportunities. You will be glad you did. I am!
Theresa P. Pierce, the Rowan-Salisbury School System’s Teacher of the Year, is a curriculum coach at Overton Elementary.