Hiding in plain sight: Third graders discover Carlisle history

by Karina Coombs

Taking the form of a scavenger hunt, the Carlisle School third-grade social studies project, “Where in Carlisle?,” has students and their families visit a minimum of ten pre-determined sites, armed with instructions, cameras and notebooks, to record details of what they discover at each locale. “We love that it is a family project,” says third-grade teacher Cindy Morris, noting that parents have commented about how much they have learned about the town because of the project. They have enjoyed visiting places they never knew existed—even some life-long residents.

One of the carved stones at Vivian’s Place (named in honor of former Selectman Vivian Chaput) on the
town’s Conant Land. (Photo by Karina Coombs)

After spending four weeks visiting various historic and natural locations throughout town, third graders turned in their completed journals on Friday, October 19. Using questions provided as a guide, the students are instructed to incorporate photos, illustrations and notes in order to create a journal that can describe up to 21 points of interest throughout Carlisle. Books are shared in groups and kept in the class library for a time for students to enjoy. Morris says the lesson serves as an introduction to the history series and the kids get to know the town and discover history right here. “Fun is part of it too,” explains Morris. “Kids come in excited to tell us what they saw.”

Because the scavenger hunt has been a part of the third-grade curriculum for at least 13 years, and several years before that as a second-grade project, some families take part more than once. Student Marjorie Haddad recalls visiting one of the natural points of interest, Wolf Rock, with her older sibling when she was five and is excited to have it be her turn.

Steeple jack George Burgess repairs and paints the FRS steeple, which houses the Town Clock.
(Photo by Karina Coombs)

Learning about the town they live in has also encouraged some students to explore the history of Carlisle on their own and develop a greater understanding of their surroundings. Morris describes how student Lukas Letteri brought in the local history book, Images of America: Carlisle, to share at morning meeting so that he could point out early photos of some of the locations the class visited such as Clark Farm and the oldest house in Carlisle at 45 South Street.

Student Jacqueline Hedlund was able to discuss her visit to Heartbreak Ridge while incorporating facts from the recent Mosquito article (“Great Brook Farm—The Tophet Loop, October 5) and many kids excitedly referenced the article’s description of the area as “the worst place on earth” since visiting the site.

The scavenger hunt has recently been passed along to interested teachers in Concord to see if it something similar can be used in their schools.

Asked what her favorite part of the project is as a teacher, Morris says that she likes looking at and reading the finished journals to see how the different students’ personalities come through in the way the books are organized and how the sites are described. “I loved the hike [to Adams’s Mill] because of the awesome scenery,” writes Letteri in his journal. After visiting the Swanson Poultry Farm and looking specifically for the “Tattooed Poultry” sign, student Ahria Desai writes, “I wonder if it is called tattooed poultry because the chickens have a marking on them so that if they get lost they can be returned to the right place.” Student Aidan Chou writes, “[The Town Clock] looks really old because everything around it like the boards have paint falling off of it.” As for what the students like best about the project, Noah Wells likes Green Cemetery because it “looks spooky” while Anson Rodgers explains that Clark Farm is his favorite, “because it has tons of animals and I live there.” ∆