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Tarrytown Students Learn History With Seniors

SLEEPY HOLLOW, N.Y. – Elisabeth Hickey received several unusual calls from parents during a recent class project where students were instructed to immerse themselves in a specific time period.

One parent in particular told Hickey that she had to bring little Napoleon with her to the supermarket.

“It was a great experience for them,” Hickey said.

Students in grades three through five in the Union Free School District of the Tarrytowns recently spent several weeks learning about history from books and movies, as well as a small group of senior citizens.

The project is part of a larger push by the district to have different generations interact and learn together. Teachers and seniors talked about their experiences during a recent Board of Education meeting.

Hickey's classes were told to “read everything they could, watch every movie they could find (and actually be allowed to watch) and find out as much as they could about that time period.”

“Then we spent two weeks where I just told them to immerse themselves in that period: speak like they were in that time period, think about everything that they would have done and imagine,” Hickey said. “Their homework for two weeks was to imagine and then act out.”

The kids then took their knowledge to a group of 14 seniors . The seniors then taught the kids about experiences in their life. Senior Joan Oltman talked about the Civil Rights era and her involvement in sit-ins and protests in southern Ohio.

Although some questions weren't exactly on topic, she noted the students were “so refreshingly poised and open and natural.” She also enjoyed learning about the historical time periods the kids had researched.

“It was just an enthralling experience,” she said.

Andrea Harrison, an art teacher at Sleepy Hollow Middle School, is also working on an inter-generational project with the Tarrytown seniors. The project is a collaboration of “what life is,” she said, and her students are excited to be working with the seniors.

Last year, her students learned about the Pearl Harbor attack from survivor Armando “Chick” Galella and then created a peace mural for the school.

“We'd better find some good wall space,” she said.

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