About a year and a half ago I worked with students in my Critical Reading in History Class to create a history resource website for the Josiah Quincy House (a beautiful, well-preserved home, built in 1770 and just about a block from our main campus.) The work paid off. I blogged about it here and here. The local paper, the Patriot Ledger, even ran a full-page color story on it, interviewing me and the students. What's even better . . . that story in the paper, and our website, greatly boosted attendance at the historic home the summer after the semester ended.
This fall, with a new crop of students in the same class, we mulled over ideas for a similar project. We considered doing a website resource for a couple sites that no longer exist (the Quincy National Sailors Home and the Quincy Family Mansion, which used to grace our campus.) We also thought about doing a project on another old house in town (the Dorothy Quincy Homestead.)
In the end they chose to do their project on the Moswetuset Hummock, a patch of land/outcropping on a hill north of Wollaston beach. "Moswetuset," writes junior Austin Steelman, who took a lead on the project, means "'shaped like an arrowhead,' was the name of the Moswetuset or Massachusett Native American tribe from which the Commonwealth of Massachuesetts derives its name. The thickly-wooded hill was the summer seat of the tribe’s Sachem Chickatabot because of its view of the surrounding area and proximity to the bay, salt marshes, and the Blue Hills. It was here that Chickatabot met with Myles Standish of the Plymouth Colony in 1621 as the colonists began their early trade with the Indians."
This was quite a different project from the website we created for the Josiah Quincy House. Materials on the Hummock were much more spare. It was more challenging for them to find materials through Google Books, JSTOR, or just on the shelves of our library. Yet the students were certainly up to the challenge. They took photos and videos of the site. They collected maps, prints, and put together an extensive bibliography. Alex Foran, a journalism major, interviewed James Cameron, an emeritus professor of history here who has written extensively on local history and has done some work on the Moswetuset Hummock. A couple of the students made a pilgrimage to the Quincy Historical Society to gather maps and prints and to ask some good questions. While there they discovered a manuscript on the hummock that was written by none other than prof Cameron! With Cameron's blessing that MS is now on the site as a pdf.
Once again, this class effort was well worth it. I'm glad I got over my initial skepticism about group projects. Students seem to learn a great deal about research, hunting down evidence, and how best to present that to the broader public.