Community History Project in Phoenix House at Williston Central School and the Williston Historical Society
Phoenix House at Williston Central School and the Williston Historical Society had a working partnership from the fall of 2003 to June 2005. It reached its zenith on April 13 and 14, 2005 with the presentation of the play: "Our Hands on the Land, Williston Yesterday, Today & Tomorrow." The play covers over 200 years of Williston history from the Abenaki, the arrival of Thomas Chittenden, the growth of North Williston, to the Taft Corners commercial center.
In the spring of 2004 the students received background information on local history to prepare them for in-depth research during the 2004-05 school year. Thomas Chittenden biographer, Dr. Frank Smallwood, and archaeologist Douglas Frink were two of the experts invited to present.
In the fall of 2004 the students took walking and bus tours of Williston to gain some perspective on historical settings in the town.
In January 2005 eleven historical society members spent time with the students as they researched Williston history at WCS and the Vermont Room in the town library. Rickie Emerson, town librarian, and Karen Henning, WCS librarian, facilitated the research with their organization of the material.
From the research each student wrote a first person narrative that formed the basis of the play. Playwright Ethan Bowen guided the students in turning their narratives into a cohesive script for the production.
The teachers and historical society members have participated in numerous Community History Project workshops at the Vermont History Center in Barre. Cynthia Tokos, the director of the CHP, invited expert presenters to give the leaders of the fifteen school-historical society teams from around the state plenty of ideas for projects.
The Phoenix House teachers, Aron Merrill, Susan Mahony, Tom Andrews, and Josie Rule, and Enrichment Teacher Richard Allen devoted a great deal of time and energy to bring this project together.
The Williston Historical Society, Families as Partners, and the Community History Project all contributed funds in support of this project.