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Linn County Leader - Brookfield, MO
  • Part One - Educator Tasks Students With Monumental Project

  • Usually when one thinks of preserving history, he/she looks to the people who lived through it. After all, they have an interest in seeing their memories and deeds preserved. But for Mrs. Julie Sheerman’s Senior English classes at Marceline High School, the preservation of history has taken on a new importance.
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  • Usually when one thinks of preserving history, he/she looks to the people who lived through it.  After all, they have an interest in seeing their memories and deeds preserved.  But for Mrs. Julie Sheerman’s Senior English classes at Marceline High School, the preservation of history has taken on a new importance.
    Mrs. Sheerman’s classes have undertaken the task of digitizing the history of their home town to make sure that future generations will be aware of Marceline’s past.  While doing this, the students have gained some college-level research skills, as well as some video production abilities.
    “The mission statement of Marceline R-5 Schools is as follows: ‘Preparing effective and   responsible citizens for future challenges,’” began Sheerman.  “For most of my students, adjusting to college-level work proves an immediate challenge. Beyond college, the staff at Marceline Schools hopes to encourage every student to settle into a productive future as a contributing adult.”
    Sheerman continued:  “This project has provided the opportunity to practice college-level research and literacy skills while also pursuing a local topic of interest. Too many times we separate academic study and real-world living. With the help of Dr. Jennifer Clifton at the University of   Missouri,  we have undertaken a big challenge with community inquiry projects. Her history with this type of community-based learning has aided our process as I’ve worked   through the initial attempt to facilitate student inquiry.”
    Sheerman’s classes worked with the Marceline Carnegie Library, the Walt Disney Hometown Museum, and at Truman State University’s library to research their town’s history.  Each group of students were given a different area of history to work on.
    “In 15 years of teaching, I have tried a dozen approaches to the often-dreaded senior English research project,” said Sheerman.  “I have for some time hoped to pursue an inquiry-based learning opportunity with students. With the help of Jennifer Clifton and the Missouri Writing Project (on the MU campus), I began thinking about how a community inquiry project might look in a high school classroom, and then adopted a ‘learn by doing’ approach to start the process.”
    Sheerman continues:  “The students and I have asked countless community members for their assistance. Everyone we’ve contacted has willingly aided our effort to collect information,   artifacts, and expertise. In particular, Kaye Malins at the Walt Disney Hometown Museum opened the doors and helped us dive in with historical articles, photographs, artifacts, audio files, and her knowledge of the town and its history. This project would not be possible sitting isolated inside the walls of the classroom. I think you’ll notice in the students a level of enthusiasm not normally shared about English class.”

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