Horizons at Warner Takes Kids Back in Time

Students Dig Deep into Rochester’s History

It began with a scavenger hunt on River Campus.
On day one, Horizons students and teachers set out to discover Rochester’s history. They were given the task of finding and documenting certain sculptures, artifacts, statues, and places on campus that connect to the history theme for this summer.
“We had clues typed up for us,” says Dave Hershey, lead classroom teacher for rising fifth graders. “As teachers, we had to walk through the clues for the first time ourselves to help students find these things.”
The team building exercise was just the beginning of many exciting adventures to come for the 150 K-8 grade students getting an up-close look at local history during this year’s six-week Horizons at Warner: Enrichment Program for RCSD Students in Grades K-8 summer enrichment program, led by the Warner School of Education in LeChase Hall from July 10 through August 16.
Horizons students on field tripThis summer, these Rochester City School District students are learning about their hometown’s rich history through weekly field trips to Rochester’s historic sites, including Mount Hope Cemetery, the Susan B. Anthony House, High Falls, George Eastman Museum, Memorial Art Gallery, City Hall, Rundel Public Library, Stone Tolan House, Genesee Country Village and Museum, Ganondagan, and more. They even spent time studying historical artifacts in Rush Rhees Library on River Campus, where they learned firsthand about a new collection of original letters from women’s suffragist movement leaders that were found in an old barn and acquired by the University earlier this year.
“When history can come alive for students, it is all there,” explains Hershey. “It’s living history, which is amazing.”
Going to Mount Hope Cemetery, for example, allowed students to see what others have left on the gravesites of Susan B. Anthony and Frederick Douglass. “They are young, but we are hooking them in,” Hershey adds. “The hope is that we can plant the seed and captivate them because there is so much rich history here in Rochester.”
The theme also comes alive through classroom discussions, projects, lessons, and literature. A focus on Haudenosaunee life during the first week of Horizons gave students in Hershey’s class a better understanding of Haudenosaunee history and culture. Hershey and his associate teacher, Mackenzie Hargrave ’16 (BA), who is Oneida, Wolf Clan and studying in the elementary education program and Urban Teaching & Leadership Program at Warner, invited Hargrave’s sister in to do an oral storytelling of Woman Who Fell from the Sky for students. It is a Haudenosaunee legend that Hargrave recalls reading as a young child. That same week, students also created their own longhouses.
Horizons students in the classroomHorizons at Warner features a different theme from year to year. The theme for each summer provides an in-depth learning experience and exposure to new topics. The weekly field trips take place every Friday and connect to the summer’s overarching theme.
A culminating Horizons event on Wednesday, August 16 will feature a museum exhibit, showcasing students’ work connecting to the local history theme, that will be held in Wentworth Atrium of LeChase Hall from 11:30 a.m. to noon, followed by a parade of 16 floats, inspired by local history and created by students themselves, around River Campus. Both will be an opportunity for others to learn from students about Rochester’s history.
Past Horizons’ themes include “Change Over Time,” “The Genesee River,” “Inventors,” “Architecture,” “Entrepreneurs,” “Pollution Solutions,” and “Performance.”
According to Horizons at Warner Executive Director Lynn Gatto, who also serves as an assistant professor and director of elementary education at Warner, the thematic project-based approach is one of the things that make Horizons at Warner unique.
“Our site is one of the only Horizons affiliates to embrace this thematic approach,” she notes. “Centering all of our summer activities and instruction around a particular theme allows students to explore, learn, and investigate ideas and their environment, while using knowledge and skills from several disciplines.”
“Freedom Fighters” became the designated classroom name for Hershey and Hargrave’s fifth-grade classroom. Students also had the opportunity to create timelines of the race riots that took place in Rochester in 1964 to help document the order and location of events and to reflect on this history.
For Hargrave and others, this year’s theme has been enriching because of the whole idea of people fighting for rights. “Kids can see the connection to today and see that fighting isn’t just in history,” she says. “There have been a lot of freedom fighters working toward equality and freedom today.”
Down the hall in the classroom of rising sixth graders, lead teacher James Hermon and associate teacher Laura Cochell, a PhD student in teaching and curriculum at Warner, are working with students to create games that tie into this year’s local history theme. Following each field trip, their students have taken what they’ve learned to form questions that will be used for a collection of games, like Sorry and a toss game, to be on display at the museum exhibit. Once the games are created, students will create step-by-step instructions.
Horizons students on field tripThe goal:  to engage students in research and to help them teach others what they’ve learned about Rochester’s history.
“Using their research skills and going out into the environment gets students to places they may not have gone before,” Hermon shares. “They question and research, like true historians, and they dive in to find the answers. I hope that they leave us this summer with a positive growth mindset and return to school in the fall feeling good about themselves as researchers.”
Throughout the summer, students are also enhancing their reading skills by participating in reader’s theater. Similar to practicing parts for a play, students learn and re-read passages from various stories of local and national American activists, like Susan B. Anthony and Ruby Bridges, who became the first African-American child to integrate an all-white elementary school in 1960.
Cochell adds that empowerment is a big part of all of this. “Recognizing that empowerment piece, particularly women’s empowerment, and just seeing someone who looks like you—someone who did impactful things. That is so important,” she says.
The theme ties the entire summer together for students. And it’s a different learning experience than what kids are accustomed to during the traditional school day.
“When we see kids during the school year leading up to Horizons, they are always so excited to hear what the new theme is for the upcoming summer,” Gatto says, “and they always remember and talk about our past themes.  There’s so much incredible history here that kids should know about.”
For lead classroom co-teachers Rosalie Andino and Ivy Clark, this thematic approach is an opportunity for them to go deeper into content with their seventh- and eighth-grade students. They began the first day of Horizons with a quote from Frederick Douglass: “I am a master of my words.” From there, students discussed the power of language and examined different quotes that resonate with them. They also looked at words of people of historic importance, like Frederick Douglass’ speech on the Fourth of July, and how they behaved to bring about change.
Horizons students on field tripHelping students to find their voice and be a master of their own words is at the core of their teaching.
“I hope that students learn from this year’s theme that they have a voice,” says Clark. “When you use it the right way, you can move people. You can move mountains. You can do a lot with being the master of your own words.”
Both Clark and Andino are learning alongside their students about some of the lesser-known facts, such as how the first African-American settler Asa Dunbar cleared land for his farm in Irondequoit and how the inventor of the graham cracker had local ties to Rochester, that are not taught in school.
“It’s been very exciting because it’s easily personal for the kids and for us,” shares Andino who is working with her activism theme group to create a parade float of Susan B. Anthony and Frederick Douglass having tea in the garden. “We talk about activism in the past and now, and we challenge students to think about what’s important to them.”
The students’ thirst for knowledge is so apparent this year, particularly during the field trips. The connections they are making to their own neighborhoods have encouraged them to continue many of these conversations with their families at home.
“When it’s personal, it’s more empowering,” adds Clark.
And the seventh-grade students in Clark and Andino’s class are making history by returning next year and becoming the first graduating class that started out as kindergartners with Horizons at Warner.
“I love the kids that I work with here,” Andino says, “and I’ve been fortunate to be able to see them grow up.”
Media Contact: Theresa Danylak
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Tags: Horizons at Warner, Lynn Gatto, summer enrichment