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New historical markers in Monett show power of place-based education

A grant from the Rural Schools Collaborative made the project possible

Place-based education

Students learn while connecting to where they are

A new layer of history is visible in Monett — no archeological dig required — with the installation of more than 30 markers that tell of notable places in the town’s history. The project, led by Monett teacher Amy Sampson and her high school students, was made possible by a grant from the Rural Schools Collaborative.

“This truly has been a collaborative community effort,” Sampson said at the dedication ceremony on March 31. “That’s another important facet of place-based education; it’s not just working with your kids in your class, but partnering with people in town to make something happen.

“This morning, we’re cutting a ribbon of dedication; our class is dedicating these 30-plus signs to the Monett community in order to preserve our local historic places, people and events.”

Sampson’s emphasis on place-based education began to grow after taking graduate classes at Missouri State University.

“These classes focused on something I had never heard of: place-based education,” Sampson said. “Place-based education is exactly the definition you would expect: Using your curriculum in order to teach about the place you live in.”

This led her to build a curriculum and conceptualize new ways to connect her students and the place where they live.

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Community members were invited to an official ribbon cutting for the markers in late March 2023.

Sampson received permission from the school’s principal and the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education to implement those efforts in her Missouri Literature and Composition class.

“As far as we know, it’s the first place-based education English class in Missouri,” she said — and which ultimately led to a Celia B. Godsil Grant in Place Fellowship from the Rural Schools Collaborative, a nonprofit partner of the Community Foundation of the Ozarks.

RSC is a national advocate for rural schools, school foundations, place-based education and rural teacher corps. The organization was founded in 2014 by Dr. Gary Funk, a past president of the CFO. Since 2015, RSC and its partners have awarded $500,000 for place-based education projects.

For Sampson’s project, the grant funding from RSC was used to install the signs around Monett.

“I asked my students if they had an idea on how we could spend $2,000 if we won, and if I filled out the paperwork,” Sampson says. “We had just finished a unit about the history of Monett. A student from my third-hour class noted it would be useful and cool if we had historical markers around town to note when and where our local history took place.”

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Several markers reflect the role of the railroad as it came through Monett.

After receiving the grant, the students worked with local historian and retired journalist Murray Bishoff to identify and write descriptions for the sites, which range from the former location of the Monett Harvey House to notable schools to the Freedom Silo, a current landmark.

“It’s not so much the sights, it’s the process of telling the story,” Bishoff says. “The kids became storytellers and that’s a big part of making the town grow, is being able to share those stories.

“It was great to engage the kids. To get them to want to know the town’s story and make the effort to do it. I was delighted to be able to polish off the rough edges and make sure the stuff was accurate.”

One of those students is Jayden Hohensee, a junior who is a lifelong Monett-area resident.

“The effort helped me see that there are more people than we may think that care about our town,” Hohensse says. “It’s important to know … about the history of our town and see where important events happened.”

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More than 30 sites throughout the Monett area have been identified through marker placement. Shown here is the the Sizer home, which was built for the family of attorney Fielding Sizer in 1916.

In addition to the signs’ physical presence, the sites are also visible online via a QR code. The code takes visitors to a Google map where pins mark the various sites and hold the same information on the physical signs.

“Walking around Monett, you may wonder about certain buildings, or names that you hear. Before, you may have never come across an answer without actively searching,” says AshleyAnnette Mary Garcia, another student in Sampson’s class. “Now that our classes have covered almost 40 topics, facts and curiosities, we’ve opened a door for discussion and learning among the community.

“I hope that this kind of progression and learning continues for years to come. There is so much more to Monett than (what) your eyes see.”

By Kaitlyn McConnell, writer in residence for the Community Foundation of the Ozarks

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