Holabird STEM students work to preserve history
Wednesday, 16 April 2014 13:31

Fort Howard field trip ties to preservation

by John G. Bailey

    Wednesday, April 9, was no day for middle school students to be stuck in a classroom, but it was a great day for outdoor environmental research.
    Fortune smiled upon the Holabird STEM [science, technology, engineering, math] Program eighth-grade class for its morning field trip to five Battle of North Point sites. Warm temperatures, a bright sky and a light breeze greeted the students at their stops at Battle Acre, North Point Battlefield Park, North Point State Park, Todd’s Inheritance and Fort Howard Park. 
    Science teacher and STEM coordinator Marjorie McGarry explained the purpose of the day’s excursion during an interview atop one of the batteries at Fort Howard.
    In the STEM program, students identify and analyze real-world problems to come up with solutions. The focus of the field trip was the preservation and/or restoration of local historical sites.
    To organize information and direct the project, each student was tasked with filling out a prepared guide, which required a description, the historical significance and the environmental and human influences of each site. They also had to render a site sketch at each location.
    National Park Ranger Abbie Bayne joined school faculty on the field trip. After McGarry corralled student’s attention, Bayne conducted a guided observation of Fort Howard to get students started.

“Look out over the water,” she called  out. “What human activities do you see that impact Fort Howard?” Students identified ships and the smoke stacks  across Patapsco River in Anne Arundel County. “How can we lessen those impacts?”
    The group had been prepped for the outdoors portion of the STEM project with a history of the battle of North Point by Maryland Historical Society instructors at an earlier date at school. 
    Along with the academic mission, McGarry identified a corollary objective of the outing. “Another goal [of the field trip] is to increase community pride among students through exposure and knowledge of local sites,” she said.
  The Holabird students are part of a larger regional effort with eighth-graders from Baltimore City and Prince George’s County schools, who are  undertaking the same project for historical sites in their respective jurisdictions.
    After returning to  school, students will form into groups of four to come up with preservation and restoration solutions.
    Selected students from all three schools will present their findings at History Field Day, scheduled to take place Friday, May 30, in Patterson Park from 10 a.m. to noon. Fifth-grade students will be in attendance to learn from their middle school elders.
    “Their ideas will be implemented,” McGarry said.
“These are real projects which will be taken seriously.
    The STEM project is part of an integrated effort involving schools, the Baltimore
County War of 1812 Advisory Committee, the National Park Service, the Maryland Department of Resources and other groups to preserve and restore historical sites of local, state and national significance.
    “All the sites are part of the National Historic Trail,” said Bayne. “We’ve gotten a good response from community leaders and volunteers.” 
    Eighth-graders being eighth-graders, some of the students at Fort Howard appeared more inter-
ested in their social lives than in site research. Others, though, enjoyed the work while relishing the outdoors.
    “I’ve never come here for the history before,” student Scott Schoeverman said. “I like it.”
    His friend Ryan Swartz, another former visitor to Fort Howard, concurred. “It brings back memories - I feel like a kid again. The [project] guide helps.”