Originally appears in the Fall 2010 issue
We knew that upstream were the remains of the Old Bell Factory. It was one of those early spring days when you could smell the earth coming back to life, warmed by the sun’s rays. And with the brook surging with water from the melting snow, it was easy to see why early settlers of Peterborough, New Hampshire would have chosen to build their mill here in order to harness the power of nature.
Our paddle up the brook was a component of a sixth-grade social studies project my class had undertaken on the cultural and natural history of the Contoocook River, which flows behind our school. The resulting field sketches, watershed map and historical diaries would become pieces of an exhibit about the river to be displayed at the local historical society museum. At the end of the project, one student, commenting on what she enjoyed about the unit said, “I really liked learning about past Peterborough because I’ve lived here my whole life.”
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Patrick Keegan teaches sixth and seventh grade math and social studies at South Meadow School in Peterborough, New Hampshire.