On Friday, Sept. 6, middle school students from The Academy at Wood’s Mill visited Dogwood Forest and The Holbrook in search of local history.
By way of introduction, students brought fresh-cut flowers to distribute to residents. With a flower and a smile, students spoke briefly with many residents, hoping to forge a relationship that would lead them to more personal interviews, hoping to chronicle local history through a primary source: someone who lived in Gainesville throughout much of the 20th century.
Upon returning to school, students wrote thank-you notes. They also reflected on their experience, which is a key component of academic service learning.
“Thank you for playing the piano and for making us smile — and letting us go visit you,” wrote one eighth-grade student.
Another wrote “The thing I really enjoyed was listening to stories from when y’all were our age. I think that y’all are important in the City of Gainesville, because y’all know more than we do, and well, I thank you very much.”
Perhaps the quote that best sums up the introductory activity is this: “Dear Mrs. Black, You have the sweetest soul I have ever seen. I can’t wait to come back to Dogwood Forest. Take care.”
After training sessions with oral history experts such as local educators Helen Martin and Linda Hutchens, students will return to Dogwood Forest in smaller groups. Multimedia projects will then be crafted by students, with assistance from local film student Lewis Link.