Hall County elementary students soon might ask George Washington, Benedict Arnold and Beulah Rucker of Gainesville a question about their lives.
The students will be watching webisodes of history, produced by the Northeast Georgia History Center at Brenau University. The center shot five episodes in about five and a half hours Saturday.
Eight are “ready to go,” Ken Johnston, curator of education for the center, said. “As time goes by, we’re going to be building more of those.” He called the shooting “a really nice baptism by fire.”
The history center has a two-year donation from the Cottrell Foundation to pay for a digital studio, equipment and the annual costs to provide the programming.
Glen Kyle, the executive director of the center, said the programming provides technology to the classroom and it matches Georgia Performance Standards with the content.
“If a teacher calls and says, ‘I really need something about Lyman Hall or Edward P. Gaines,’ we can do something about that,” Kyle said. “We can take local stories and we can match those to Georgia Performance Standards.”
Kyle said the technical part of the planning — allowing teachers to sign up and schedule content — should be ready by next week.
The center has worked closely with Hall County to establish the program and plans to expand it to Gainesville city and Lumpkin County schools during the fall semester. The history center serves 13 counties and the programming should be available to those by January, Johnston said.
“We are incredibly excited about the opportunities that the history center will be providing our students,” said Jo Dinnan, elementary education director for Hall County.
“Our teachers will be able to sign up for times that will make history come to life, literally, for their students.
“For example, while third graders are studying Harriet Tubman, the history center can provide a live performance by Harriet Tubman via technology directly into the classroom. She will be in costume and acting out different scenarios from the social studies standards, and students will be able to relate to who she was.”
Dinnan said students will be able to ask Tubman questions and engage in conversations with her.
“This takes learning history to a new level, as you can imagine,” Dinnan said. “Additionally, the history center will use this same format to provide tours of the history center without teachers having to arrange for school buses or leave the school.”
In the basement of the center, the Cottrell Digital Studio — created over the past few months — is available for taping and editing. David Cook, a Brenau University student in mass communications, is the digital producer, with the latest equipment and software.
The studio is lined with acoustic tiles that provide the best quality sound — and soundproofing outside the studio.
“Ten years ago, we couldn’t have done this,” Kyle said, because the technology was really expensive and not as compact.
Webisodes are available for fourth, fifth and eighth grades. One is about Rucker, an early 20th century teacher in Gainesville. Most of the others deal with the American Revolution or Civil War. John Ridge, a Georgia Cherokee leader who signed the Treaty of New Echota, also is featured in one.
In addition to the episodes from history, the center will offer virtual tours of exhibits. The center has three virtual tours available.
Kyle and Johnston pointed out that the material will be available to other schools or groups, but those outside its primary area will pay a fee for the content.
Kyle said the center hopes to “get enough support from the community to sustain the broad, no-fee access model” after the two years covered by the donation.
The center staff came up with the idea, Kyle said.
“We hatch a lot of ideas here, but this one really struck a chord,” he said. He credited Cheryl Vandiver, a history center board member, with helping work with the Cottrell Foundation. He added the foundation is “very educationally focused.”
The center hopes to reach several hundred teachers with the broadcasts.
“Our goal is to be greatly disturbed at how covered up we are with this,” he said.