published Friday, July 8th, 2011

Five Points aims to bring local history to classrooms

By Paul Leach
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CLEVELAND, Tenn. — Several dozen East Tennessee educators visited the Museum Center at Five Points as part of a program to expose them to regional historical resources and how to integrate them into curriculum.

On Wednesday, the museum presented two recurring educational programs aimed at elementary school students. “Appalachian Days” explores life in Cleveland’s pioneering years in the 1830s, and “River of Time” uses the museum’s permanent exhibit to highlight the town’s historical, social and economic fabric through the post-World War II era.

“We try to show the children that this is their story,” said Jennifer White, education curator for the museum. “Our job is to preserve that story and make it personal.”

“Appalachian Days” offered plenty of hands-on experiences for the touring educators, as volunteers in mid-19th century dress showed them how to churn butter, barter and socialize at the general store.

The “River of Time” presents insights into Cleveland’s success, museum Director Lisa Simpson Lutts said. The town’s access to transportation — first through the railroad, then with Interstate 75 — undoubtedly facilitated its industrial growth, she said.

Several educators, ranging from elementary to high school teachers, attended the tour. Many praised the day’s programming, either as a possible destination for student field trips or for lessons to enhance the classroom experience.

“I’ve got a lot of ideas to take back to the students and increase their learning,” said Brian Kyle, who teaches an honors class in U.S. history at McMinn County High School.

The tour, organized by the East Tennessee Historical Association of Knoxville, made bus stops in McMinn, Bradley and Polk counties.

“We are advocates for teachers and local history,” said Lisa Oakley, curator of education for the East Tennessee Historical Society and key organizer of the tour. “We try to get teachers out and teach them about history and historical resources available to them and their students.”

History is a lot more relevant if students can see it in their own back yards, said Linda Caldwell, executive director of the Tennessee Overhill Heritage Association and co-organizer of the tour.

Paul Leach is based in Cleveland. Email him at paul.leach.press@gmail.com.

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