By JEROD CLAPP
NEW ALBANY —
Instead of hitting the books, they pounded the pavement.
Students from Community Montessori spent Friday roaming the streets of downtown New Albany, learning a little about the city’s history, its significance and even some lessons in how much power a dollar holds.
Kyle Herman, one of the class’s instructors, said giving his students a chance to study outside of the classroom in a place where they have some sort of connection helps them tie together their schoolwork.
“It gives them an opportunity to be active in their studies, getting out of the school and engaging their pedagogy in experiential kind of way,” Herman said. “Study in place gives them a sense of their connection to their past as well as understanding their role today.”
He said as they saw where the city had come from, they might get a sense of how they could make their own mark on New Albany’s history.
But students also learned the role they play in the city’s economy. Herman and another instructor, Abby Kerns, took the students to locally owned restaurants and taught them about the role they played in helping to revitalize downtown.
“When and where you spend your money, that’s part of your power as a citizen,” Herman said. “Part of the reason New Albany started coming back was because the owners of these businesses invested in the area.”
After having breakfast at Toast on Market, students made their way to the New Albany-Floyd County Public Library’s archives to see what they could dig up on the city’s history.
Danielle Craft, a ninth-grader at the school, spent her time uncovering information on the Culbertson Mansion. She said she had never visited and knew some of the history, but enjoyed the opportunity to see what people throughout New Albany’s history had to say about the mansion.
“I’d never actually been there, I just knew it was haunted,” Craft said. “It was really cool to see some of the reports from people that lived there.”
Students also visited the Carnegie Center for Art and History and the Vintage Fire Museum.
As they toured the innovations made in fire equipment, they also learned how one apparatus from New Albany made national news in the ’30s.
During the flood of 1937, firemen had to come up with a way to get a truck to any blazes that stirred up. With the streets completely underwater, they built a raft for their 1918 fire truck. A photo of firemen taking it around the city made it into newspapers across the country.
The truck was restored and unveiled at the museum’s chili cook-off and fundraiser on Thursday.
Seeing how fire equipment had changed from the mid-1700s to now is a way for students to see how they could make their own innovations in the world, Herman said.
He said as they get ready to enter the world after school, they can bring their own innovations to society.
“Some generation had to come up with the first invention to fight fires,” Herman said. “But generations after that furthered and innovated them. These students are on the cusp of their own contributions to mankind.”
Kerns said as they continue getting out of the classroom once every few weeks for exercises like this one, she hopes the learning that culminates from it will push them to bring everything they’ve learned full-circle.
“I think what I’m most interested in is the end of the day in finding out what they’re interested in investigating further,” Kerns said. “This is really kind of a kickoff for them. It’s easy for them to say they have to do something for a history project or work on their algebra 1. This is a way to help them see everything come together.”