Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

October 18, 2013

Hager third-graders learn history through research

Mike James
The Independent

ASHLAND — Just $60 will buy you The Independent, lock, stock and barrels of ink.

If you want the deed to King’s Daughters Medical Center, dig a little deeper — it will cost you a cool $400.

The two properties are among many Ashland landmarks past and present that are for sale. At least, they are for sale if you are playing Ashlandopoly, the version of Monopoly Elliott Fosterwelsh invented for a third-grade social studies class project.

The disparity in price results from the two properties’ position on the game board: The Independent is on the third space past GO traditionally occupied by Baltic Avenue, one of the game’s budget properties.

King’s Daughters sits on the prime real estate otherwise known as Boardwalk. Its companion property is the long-gone old city hall building in the Park Place position. The Independent is flanked by the former post office building now occupied by the Jesse Stuart Foundation.

However, the board isn’t designed primarily for gameplay. Rather, teachers Linda Mahanna and Susan Redman wanted their students to learn more about their community, and asked them to come up with projects that would show they’d dug into their Ashland roots and learned about their city.

Caroline Pullem and Parker Williams each created multi-media podcasts featuring local landmarks. Parker concentrated on Central Park, incorporating video, still photography, music and narration to show off Ashland’s showpiece green space. “I just like the birds there. It’s my favorite place to go and play,” he said. “I wanted to let everybody know the history. It’s a good thing for kids to learn,” he said.

Caroline’s fast-paced video takes viewers via car-mounted camera across the Simeon Willis Bridge to Ohio and then back to Ashland on the Ben Williamson span. From there it presents an array of Ashland’s most prominent features, such as the Skytower office building and the Paramount Arts Center.

Caroline, who appears in several scenes throughout the piece, chose a lighthearted approach for a purpose, she said. “I was trying to make it funny so the kids in my class would like it, but it would still give them information,” she said.

Ashland has other green spaces besides Central Park, and the one Skylar Reffitt chose for her project was the Ashland Cemetery. She photographed scores of stones and catalogued them in a loose-leaf notebook along with a short historical essay.

Of particular interest were the graves of prominent Ashlanders, unique stones like the one shaped like a tree stump and the final resting place of the first child born in Ashland.

When she researched graves, Skylar ended up uncovering city history. “Now I know more about Ashland,” she said.

Every year’s third-graders do the project, Mahanna said. The difference she noted this year was a wider-ranging interest in the city as a whole. “Usually I get 10 bridges and replicas of the Paramount and Putnam Stadium,” she said. “This year most of the children looked at the whole community.”

The exercise has two goals: insight into their home community and use of research resources to learn more about the city, she said.

The children employed both primary and secondary research sources. One student interviewed restaurant managers and another student’s source outlined more than 70 years of Ashland history.

“I learn something new about this area every year,” Mahanna said. I’m always amazed.”