Finding the Facts Behind the Historical Fiction
Ms. Austin's Fourth Grade Class
WHY?You may be wondering why we went through all the trouble to research the facts behind the historical fiction, Forbidden Friendship.
Perhaps it was because so few of us, or anyone we knew for that matter, had heard of the story of the Chinese immigrants in North Adams, and the important role they played in national immigration policy. As fourth graders it felt good to become experts in local history and share what we learned with others. It was also cool to drive through North Adams and be able to point out places and know about events that took place 150 years ago. It was also fun to travel out of our classroom and school to a local library, museum, and walk-about. While most of us had been to some of these places before it was a different experience to visit these places acting as detective and focusing on just one issue. We all knew Paul Marino as the director of our yearly play but never realized he was an expert in local history, giving lectures and historical tours of North Adams. It was nice to see another side of Mr. Marino, and his enthusiasm for local history was contagious. We found that we learned much more about a subject when we did our own research and found answers to our own questions. It was also nice to be treated like historians, rather than children, like when we were invited into the archive vault in the library, or were allowed to touch artifacts at the historical museum. We are all proud to have played a role in creating a web site that we can share with other students - no matter their age or where they live. We hope others will be inspired to start a project that brings local history to life - it was well worth our time and we really learned a new appreciation for local history. All history starts with local history and only through the eyes of individuals can we really learn the true history of our country.
Below are some quotes from us about this experience and why it has been important to us.
'Local History Rocks!!!
Below are comments from each student in Ms. Austin's fourth grade class. We strongly encourage other classes, no matter what grade level, to learn more about their own local history. You may be surprised to find out just how interesting and fun it is to learn about local history!
"It's really cool learning about all the famous things that happened in such a small town...this was fun." - Austin
"We first read 'Forbidden Friendship about a group of Chinese workers who come to break a strike. It was just okay but when we found out who the characters really were it got interesting." "The artifact I liked the most was the census." - Spenser
"It was fun learning about North Adams, I want to learn more but I did learn a very important thing. I always thought that North Adams was just any old boring town, but now I know that it is actually known worldwide." - Nick
"Everyone thought that North Adams was nothing special, but one thing that was historical happened. This was fun and cool, looking at all these things for the unit." - Austin
"At the library I found out that his event affected the whole world. It's amazing to think that something that happened in my own home town could be so important." - Christina
"I really liked learning about Lue Gim Gong. It's amazing how he learned to cross pollinate citrus oranges to create a frost resistant fruit and how he became famous doing something he liked to do best... i think we will have a really cool web site with all our awesome resources."- Tilly
"Normally, when kids try to get information they look on the Internet or in books. We actually experienced some of the history. - Abbigail
"I really enjoyed reading the book, "Forbidden Friendship' and then learning about what really happened. it was fun going to the library and seeing the houses people lived in long ago." - Joseph
"We used everything to our advantage. Our primary resources were the 1870's census, newspaper articles, books, computers, and the most important resource - our minds. Soon we uncovered the truth about the characters in Forbidden Friendship and what really happened in their lives." - Kody
For years I've been walking in famous people's foot prints and I didn't know until now. I loved this whole unit and I thought it was very interesting that something that was known world-wide happened in our dinky, little town." - Alyssa
"I had a great time going to the North Adams Historical Society and especially the archive vault at the North Adams Library because I got to learn about Lue Gim Gong and much more. I feel like our area is great." - Samantha
"Being in the North Adams Historical Society was actually like being in the North Adams of the 1870s." - Carolyn
"This unit made me wonder why we treat people who are 'different' from us so badly."- Alyssa