Freshman students at Westby Area High School recently finished the first of nine enrichment lessons designed to teach Westby’s immigrant history and community growth since Norwegians first settled in the area.
Working with the entire freshman class, Social Studies teachers Brian Huebner and Andy Hulst, along with volunteer instructors, Dave and Ruth Amundson of the History Alive Project are celebrating of the joint project. Using their own written and sequenced set of customized lesson plans and coordinated activities the foursome enrich the students’ knowledge and appreciation for area history by emphasizing the theme “Change Over Time.”
Students were each recently given a “History-Mystery Name” as part of their new identity and throughout the course students their new persona played an integral role in shaping our area’s post immigrant past. At the same time the teachers were given a name of a past Westby Social Studies teacher from the 1920s era with names sourced from the pages of archived school year books and Principal Karl Stoker was given the adopted name of Mr. L. E. Weiland, who served as a Westby principal, teacher, and coach after the district became an accredited four year high school in the early 1900s.
“This year’s roster of alias names was tweaked over the summer by the Amundsons with most deceased and buried at the Country Coon Prairie Cemetery, but with several historians still living. The class completes a research/tour of the cemetery in May to round out the course.
“History should never be just about dead people and dates,” remarked Dave, “It about living people who impact history as well, Ruth added.
“Students plug their new given name into their individual Chrome books and also use sites like ‘Find a Grave.com’ and ‘Westby Remembered’ to begin rounding out the biography of their aliases,” added Huebner and Hulst.
October’s lesson plan included a prepared “Then and Now” walking tour of downtown Westby for all classes. The students are also given tests on all of the topics covered over the course of the project.
“We were pleasantly surprised to learn that more than just a few of the students actually already knew the current location of Westby’s oldest house in town; that Westby once had its own city jail; and that the first WHS yearbook was called the “Courier” and not the “Ski” as it is today. We certainly want to build on this information base that they already have,” Dave said.
“In subsequent class work they will be pouring over dozens of copies of old enlarged photos depicting everyday life in this area. Armed with their individual lap tops, magnifying glasses and by applying objective questions, the students will gain insights into the history of the area we call home,” Ruth added.