PARIS — SAD 17 has customized a new educational unit for students to work through with their families while they continue distance learning through the end of the 2019-20 school year.

SAD has launched a district-wide initiative for students to record community history in 2020.

The unit has been named “History in the Hills.” It gives students a way to record the history of how their communities were impacted by the coronavirus pandemic as they complete assignments of math, economics, writing, history,  nature, music and art.

“Distance learning has been hard on families and students,” said SAD 17 Curriculum Director Heather Manchester. “These activities are specifically geared to involve all in the home to work on projects together. And the result will be a community-wide collection of primary source documents from the time of COVID-19.

“The essential focus of these assignments is, ‘what do our students want others in the future know about what it was like during the coronavirus?’ How did our communities come together, even as we social distanced?”

History in the Hills is a five-week distance learning project that will wrap up at the end of the school year in June. The themes are family time, quarantine cuisine, community helpers, nature, and read all about it. Every theme is presented in a grid selection, called Choice Boards, which are sent to all students in their learning packets. The boards are tailored towards different age groups and each one contains eight activities to choose from.

“We want our students to create a record of what life is like right now. They can do an oral history interview with a family member while they are social distancing, document how life has changed for everyone during this time,” said Manchester.


The assignments give students a way to communicate how sheltering in place has affected them, in effect commiserating together even as they are separated from regular classes.

History in the Hills family themed “Choice Board” for Grades 4-6. Supplied photo

“For example, one challenge on the fourth-fifth-sixth grade board is to create a musical playlist, based on the student’s mood in that moment,” said Manchester. “And in describing why particular songs are included it’s a way that students can share their experiences and perceptions with each other.”

Over the course of five weeks, each student in the school district will submit their projects, which can be audio or video recordings, photographs, PDF documents, drawings or other art. Students will be able to evaluate their own projects, with the assistance of their teachers, to decide whether or how they wish to submit their artifacts to be included in the History in the Hills digital time capsule.

Manchester hopes that businesses and other organizations in the area become part of the project.

“For ‘quarantine cuisine,’ we’d love to have some local restaurants provide snack recipes for students and families to try,” she said. “If some of the libraries or bookstores have suggested reading we will incorporate those books into the challenges.”

SAD 17 teachers and staff work on the History in the Hills unit via Zoom. Top L-R: Justina Crosen, Heather Manchester, Jim Thornton. Middle L-R: Melissa Guerrette, Sarah Timm, Pamela Marshal. Bottom L-R: Savannah Sessions, Caitlin Dailey, Rob Ripley. Submitted photo

The project came together through collaborations between more than 30 teachers from all schools in the district who met several times via Zoom video conference to pull the concepts together and then broke off into smaller groups to develop projects for each theme, according to age group.

District Librarian Savannah Sessions is in charge of cataloging each artifact and district Technology Integrator Catherine Emery is developing an archival web site to house the collection. With 3,500 students participating in weekly challenges over a five-week period, Manchester said it could grow to be rather unwieldy so it is likely each school will have its own digital time capsule website.

Clues and updates for History in the Hills will be added to SAD 17’s Facebook page on a regular basis and teachers have created a three minute YouTube video to explain more about it.