Hilltop Montessori middle school students explore Brattleboro history
Montessori student Marley Hathaway does research in the local history room at Brooks Memorial Library.

Hilltop Montessori middle school students explore Brattleboro history

BRATTLEBORO — Poet Wendell Berry once said, “If you don't know where you are, you don't know who you are.”

This simple yet provocative idea has been at the center of the Hilltop Montessori Middle School's seven-week-long Sense of Place study that has taken its students far beyond the classroom to explore, up close and personal, the true meaning of “community.”

Hilltop's middle school students have immersed themselves in a comprehensive study of both the ordinary and the extraordinary people, places, and events of Brattleboro.

They pored over Historical Society archives, discovered primary source materials at the Brooks Memorial Library's History Room, dug through decades of deeds in the town clerk's office, and engaged in surveys, interviews, photo shoots, and conversations in the busy shops and businesses of downtown Brattleboro and in the quiet rooms of Holton Home and Pine Heights Nursing and Rehabilitation Center.

A central part of the study, “Life in Brattleboro-The Society Project,” is a look at a wide array of individuals from the Brattleboro community.

After an exploration of the fundamentals of human society, students selected an individual, conducted an interview, crafted a thesis that described their subject's role and connection to the community, wrote a storyboard, led a photo shoot, and created a digital photo montage that supports the student's thesis.

The films premiered at the Brattleboro Museum and Art Center earlier this month, and framed photo collages dedicated to the same subjects have been on display at Amy's Bakery Arts Cafe through the month of January.

Also on display at the Brooks Memorial Library through the month of January are books written and bound by students at Hilltop Montessori Middle School that are the result of primary source research on a student-selected topic of Brattleboro history.

Students represented subjects as varied as the story of the Dutch Bake Shop and the 1912 Brattleboro Pageant at Island Park in handmade books that combine serious academic research with creative flights of imagination.

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