Did you know that Mount Prospect used to be full of onions? Farmers would grow them and then store them in sheds located throughout town. District 57 second-graders can tell you this interesting historical fact, as well as many others related to the history of their community.
The second-grade classes at Fairview and Lions Park Elementary schools know all about Mount Prospect's onion-producing heritage thanks to the "Then and Now" unit, which is an important part of their curriculum. Each spring, they participate in lessons in the classroom and pay visits to spots throughout town that have historical significance. Perhaps you've seen them exploring the original William Busse house, Central School, St. John Lutheran Church and St. Paul Cemetery.
The goals of the unit are to teach students how a community develops through the years, demonstrate how interesting history can be and foster pride in the children's hometown. In addition, the Lions Park students participate in a fundraising project to support the preservation of Central School.
The Then and Now unit was developed by Lions Park and Fairview teachers several years ago. They were charged with creating the curriculum in response to a new state learning standard that required schools to teach second-graders a local history unit.
Julie Vowinkel, a second-grade teacher at Lions Park, says the unit is quite popular among her students.
"They always remember it, and they often come back and say it was one of their favorite things we did," Vowinkel said. "Many people go through life not knowing much about their surroundings. But every community has an interesting story, even a small town like Mount Prospect. By learning about their town's history, our students know a little about their heritage, and they can also apply what they have learned to other communities."
The field trip portion of the Then and Now unit includes a bus and walking tour of local sites that the students have learned about in class. Some are still standing; others are long gone and have been replaced by new businesses or houses. The tour concludes with a visit to Capannari Ice Cream, where the students enjoy a treat and learn about the history of the building, which used to be the Moehling General Store and Post Office.
Luke Sagone, a Lions Park second-grader, said he enjoyed the ice cream, but he also learned a lot on the field trip.
"At Central School, all the kids stayed in one room," said Sagone. "The teacher was always busy. I think it must have been more loud and more tough on the teacher back then." He added that after learning about Mount Prospect history, he felt "proud and good about this town."
As part of the fundraising project, the Lions Park students earn money by doing chores at home, then donate the money for the Mount Prospect Historical Society's preservation of Central School. Through the years, Lions Park students have contributed $3,500 toward the project. This year's classes donated $681.
Dahlia Zapler, a second-grader, says she did laundry to earn money for the project.
"I felt really good about it," Zapler said. "And I liked telling my family about what I was learning, especially about Central School."
"The parents are very generous about supporting the kids," Vowinkel said. "And it's thrilling for the kids to bring in their own money and talk about what they did to earn it. They are so invested in this, and they have a lot of community pride."
District 57 serves more than 2,000 pre-kindergarten through eighth-grade students in the community of Mount Prospect, preparing them to learn and succeed in a changing world. District 57 schools are Fairview School, Lions Park School, Westbrook School for Young Learners and Lincoln Middle School. For more information, visit www.d57.org.
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