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Teens Take to the Streets to Learn Hudson History

Hudson Middle School eighth graders take on personas of Hudson residents past during the annual Hudson History Tour coordinated by the St. Croix County Historical Society and the school.

If you drive through Hudson on Wednesday, you might notice flocks of teens roaming the streets. From on Ninth Street to historic Third Street and on to , some 430 eighth graders are learning from their teachers, staff and volunteers about Hudson’s past.

Now in its fourth year, the Hudson Middle School History Tour is a collaboration of the SCCHS and the Hudson Middle School. This year, 15 groups of 29 students meet at various locations around Hudson, led by the teacher of their advisory house group.

Each student is pre-assigned one of 29 identities of someone in Hudson’s past such as John Moffat, Abigail Page, Frances Phipps or Christen Birkmose. The groups start at various points on the tour including the cemetery, homes along historic Vine, Third and Orange streets and the on Third.

SCCHS Director Heidi Rushman says it’s a great way to make history come alive for the students. “The students go to places they might not have been before, like the Willow River Cemetery,” says Rushman. “This one of the favorite places on the tour, year after year. They think going there is a little creepy but cool, and it drives home the fact that here are these people that they are learning about. During the tour they take on their identities, see the homes where they lived, the buildings where they worked, and learn about the other people they knew. They really make the connection.”

At each location, students are greeted by SCCHS volunteers who present scripts on one or more of the characters. “Many of the homeowners really get into the tour and invite students into their porches and talk about the home or its restoration,” said Rushman.  

Each student gets an activity book that includes the name, photo and photograph of the home of the person that he or she is assuming. “One of our volunteers, Jacki Bradham, has assembled this book for the students that has the schedule, maps and a log book that includes a ‘Where’s My Door?’ game where students match up historical characters with the front doors of their homes,” said Rushman.

In the afternoon the groups trek to Lakefront Park for history-related activities. This year activities include historian Peter Close from Roberts, who will speak about history on the riverfront, including railroading, steamships, the old toll bridge, the old highway, the original founders of Hudson, business and buildings, and other topics.

History booths staffed by SCCHS volunteers will give students hands-on activities in historic crafts like weaving/spinning and fur traders/voyageurs and civil war reenacters will entertain the students with their stories.

“The students really enjoy becoming a part of the local history in a sense,” says Bryon Grossenbacher, an eighth grade history teacher who has been part of the program since the beginning.

“They also really like the hands-on activities at Lakefront Park, such as writing with a quill pen, corn husking and other experiential things,” he said. “We can talk about history, show pictures or read about it, but to become involved in some way like this is a powerful learning tool to connect them with their community. When they learn about how we got where we are today, they are more connected and have pride for where they are from.”

Grossbacher said the eighth grade class also conducts a bake sale during parent-teacher conferences to raise funds for the St. Croix County Historical Society Willow River Chapel Restoration Fund in honor of Hudson historian and newspaper publisher Willis H. Miller, who died in 2008 and is buried at the cemetery.

“Because the eighth graders really enjoyed this activity, one of the language arts teachers, Amy Thurston, suggested that they conduct a fund-raiser in honor of Willis Miller, who wrote a number of books on Hudson history,” said Grossenbacher. “We’ve been doing this for a number of years now.”

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Are you an eighth grader on the history tour? Upload your photos from this year's event to Patch!

Sue Roegge October 19, 2011 at 10:24 PM
It doesn't surprise me one bit these students have smiles on their faces while they are learning. I worked with Heidi at The Minnesota History Center years ago and she is absolutely excellent working with school groups. Interacting with and making a connection with students she'd never met before comes naturally to her. Beyond that she makes a subject they may expect to be boring come alive and even relate to their present day lives. Heidi rocks. Hudson is very lucky to have her.
Brenda Bredahl October 20, 2011 at 04:54 PM
Be sure to check out all the great photos from the tour by Keith Minich!

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