Bringing History To Life
Teachers throughout the Granville Central School District are always looking for ways to connect school work back to the community, and the rich history in Granville presents opportunities for crossover projects. This year, English teacher Ann O’Brien, art teachers Todd Houston and Mikenzie Monroe, and Library Media Specialist Mary Bucciero had photography students and the 9th grade Honors English students team up to create a project that spans generations of Granville history.
This summer, the Slate Valley Museum is hosting an art exhibit featuring photographs of quarry workers that have helped shape the Granville community throughout the years. The exhibit inspired the teachers to collaborate on a project that had Honors English students interview people in the community who continue to work in the quarries or had previously worked in the quarries to share their story. Meanwhile, photography students were tasked with creating layered portraits of each interviewee that gave the impression their photo was being shown on a Granville-made slate.
For the Honors English students, the project became an eye-opening experience from start to finish.
“I’ve never felt more connected to Granville,” said Tristin Warner. “I’ve spent my life growing up here around the quarries, but I never really appreciated or understood everything about them. This project has made me want to do even more research and learn more about our community to see what other hidden gems are right in front of us.”
“I interviewed my grandmother for the project, who I knew had connections to the slate industry, but wasn’t exactly sure what those connections were,” said Riley Gravelle. “Being able to tie her history back to the history of the entire community created a more personal connection for me. It painted a clearer picture of what it means to be from Granville.”
Mrs. O’Brien challenged her students to put life stories with the pictures that community members could see on display at the museum. She wanted her class to take their critical thinking and research lessons and use those tools while completing a project that helped them discover something they may have otherwise overlooked.
“We’re always looking for opportunities to take lessons we’ve studied in the classroom and apply it to something our students can connect with in their daily lives,” said Mrs. O’Brien. “We are always looking to build strong partnerships with different organizations here in Granville, and being able to tell the stories that help make Granville what it is was a natural fit.”
9th grader Elyas Alassere had a different experience with the project than some of his other classmates. While many in the class have grown up in Granville, Elyas only recently moved to the region from overseas. For his part of the project, Elyas interviewed Elizabeth Shaw, a German native who moved to the region in the 1950s. He says interviewing someone who emigrated to the region helped build a connection to the project in a unique way.
“Being able to sit down with someone who moved here during a different time, but experienced similar challenges that I have encountered really helped me relate to the assignment,” said Elyas. “Elizabeth was the first woman to work in the quarries, but she was also someone who struggled with the language barrier when she first arrived. She didn’t let anything stand in her way of building a new life for herself and becoming part of a community, and that really made an impact on me. It’s inspiring to hear her story.”