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THE BROOKFIELD COMMUNITY HISTORY PROJECT:
"REMAINS OF THE DAY"


Introduction
The "Town Hall"building, where town meetings were formerly held, on the first floor. The Masons and Eastern Star met on the third floor, and Grange meetings were held on the second floor. (Historical Society photo)
town hall photo

The Brookfield Community History Partnership consists of members from the Brookfield Historical Society, local residents with specialized knowledge, and the teachers of the fifth and sixth grades at Brookfield Elementary School. They along with their students from the Brookfield Elementary School sought to learn their past through a curriculum designed by, Carol Ferris Liasson, a graduate student at Harvard University's School of Museum Studies, and part-time resident of Brookfield.

The curriculum "Remains of the Day" asked the Brookfield students to investigate what remains from the past around them; houses, landscape, objects, and try and listen to the stories that surround them. It was the goal of the partnership that the students be "desire-led" in self-choosing the methodology that would answer some of the questions that would arise. Such as:

  • Who lived here?
  • What did they do during their day?
  • How can we learn "how to investigate and understand the past"?
  • What did they leave behind that gives us clues as to who they were?
  • What would you leave behind, that would explain to Brookfielders in the future who you were and why you lived the way you do?

Utilizing a "front-end" survey approach, we interviewed and evaluated the responses of local elementary students, members of the historical society, teachers, and local residents when asking a large array of history questions. The most crucial one being, "In what way would you most like to learn about Brookfield history?" This question required them to make a first, second, third, and fourth choice —amongst the following options. (Different surveys were designed for each of the above segments, i.e., shorter and simpler for younger children, and thirty> respondents in total were interviewed).

: Given a choice of "how to learn your history" what activities would you choose to do; first, second, third, and last in this grouping?

  1. Dig things up.
  2. Read about things.
  3. Look at old photographs.
  4. Hold and study old things.

The bottom line (after much analysis) was that the fifth and sixth graders in order of preference: wanted to dig things up, touch and study old objects, use old photographs and lastly— do any readings that would help them to understand archaeology and local building architecture. Finally, learning how to preserve the objects they would (hopefully) find in the culmination of our project, called "The Big Dig", which was to be an archaeological excavation at a local community site.

We were fortunate that the Historic Brookfield Town Hall (which has its own strong community partnership and was being fully renovated) was available and open for us to use as a site-base for archaeological study and local history learning.

Firstly, all of our early visits into the classrooms would center on critical pre-teaching activities, which we called "Investigation Stations". These stations centered on object and local landscape learning: specifically identifying what would actually remain in, around, and under the Brookfield Town Hall. Also, what "story" those excavated remains and objects could tell us about our past. Finally, once we had the (hoped for) remains, how did we best preserve them, and make meaning from them— so that at the end of the community project others would be able to learn from them, as well.