Small Town – Big History

The Madison Historical Society approached teachers at the high school, seeking help documenting how industrial growth had influenced the town. Tenth and eleventh grade students in a World History class discussed ways they might help, and talked further with the Historical Society curator. The students decided to do a service-learning project with the Historical Society to help document and illustrate how industrial change shaped their small town. This project gave students experience with historical research from primary sources, and linked to their history curriculum on the Industrial Revolution.

Early on in the project, students visited the Historical Society’s museum—meeting with its curator, reviewing old photographs and looking at the existing exhibits. They also took a field trip to the Maine State Museum in Augusta. Seeing the professional displays and exhibits there helped inspire their planned contribution to the Madison museum.

Students researched local history through interviews and a review of old paintings and architecture. They decided to create a display that would show how industrial growth transformed both the lives of Madison residents and the town’s physical structure. The students worked in small groups, creating timelines, budgets and materials lists for each phase of the project.

The students wrote stories incorporating what they had learned and compiled appropriate graphics for their display. Each student also prepared a children’s book about the effects of industrialization on life in Madison (focusing on business, everyday life, travel, activities and entertainment). After the exhibit was put on display, the curator told the students the exhibit was very informative and had been well received by the community.