Through a new program that will be offered starting with the 2010-2011 school year by the Howard County Historical Society, local students will learn how history has shaped — and continues to shape — their world and how it’s related to other subjects.

For example, Bon Air third-graders toured the Seiberling mansion. They learned what a curator does and got to go behind the scenes to places at the mansion that the general public doesn’t get to go, just like a curator would. They learned about David Foster giving land to the community so that Kokomo could be established. They learned about others in the community.

Then, Bon Air fifth-graders toured the Kokomo Opalescent Glass Factory and learned the science of glass-making, that it takes heated sand, soda, and lime and goes from a solid to a liquid to a solid. KOG ships the glass it makes all over the world, and it is a longstanding employer in the community, so they learned about economy and globalization. They learned about recycling as KOG pointed out that broken glass is sorted and re-melted to be used again. They also learned about the environment and the importance of protecting natural resources. The reason KOG and other glass companies opened their doors in Kokomo years ago was because there was a large supply of natural gas. Because the supply was not  managed well and used freely without thinking about the future, the supply ran out. Then, the Bon Air fifth-graders visited the Elliott House, where they reviewed all that they had learned and made windows — out of candy — before touring the Seiberling mansion to see some of KOG’s stained glass windows.

And Bon Air eighth-graders toured Crown Point Cemetery, where they heard recordings of reenactors tell the tales of eight people buried there: Dr. Henry Cole, General T.J. and Louvisa Harrison, Aunt Millie Martindale, Sarah Jane Love, Elmer and Catherine Apperson, and Milton Garrigus. Students investigated tombstones, ornamental engravings, and symbols to determine possible clues about the lives and beliefs of those laid to rest. Their vocabulary words were used throughout the presentation. Students had the opportunity to create unique tombstone rubbings, and when they returned to the classroom the teacher had plenty of writing prompts to use.

And everything the third-, fifth-  and eighth-graders learned through the Howard County Historical Society Local History Education Program met the Indiana Department of Education’s curriculum standards, said Kelly Karickhoff, executive director of the Howard County Historical Society.

The society has had the idea for 10 years. 

“Our question was, ‘How do you make history relevant to today’s kids, make it something creative and engaging, and have the blessings of the school corporations?’ ” Karickhoff said. “If we were going to put time and resources into creating it, we wanted to make sure it was something that schools would take advantage of by providing something that was of high value.”

So Karickhoff said the Howard County Historical Society asked administrators at Kokomo-Center Schools what their students needed that the society could provide. They said they could use a program for third-graders who study the community, fifth-graders who study science and eighth-graders who are studying writing and vocabulary.

With the help of many interns, the Howard County Historical Society prepared the Local History Education Program made up of “Monroe Seiberling’s Mansion,” for third-graders, “Gas Boom to Glass Boom,” for fifth-graders, and “Reliving History at Crown Point Cemetery” for eighth-graders. 

The Local History Education Program was made possible thanks to the financial support of Symposium and the Duke Energy Foundation, Karickhoff pointed out.

The program was tested during the month of May, will be tweaked some over the summer, and will be implemented starting this fall.

“We can’t do it all year round,” said Karickhoff. “So we’ll do the Reliving History at Crown Point Cemetery in September and October, Gas Boom to Glass Boom in January and February, and Monroe Seiberling’s Mansion in March and April.”

The Howard County Historical Society has set aside funds to hire a teacher part-time Tuesday through Friday for 24 weeks of the year to teach the lessons and give the tours. Even though the Howard County Historical Society has been working with Kokomo-Center Schools from the concept to testing stage, all school corporations in Howard County will be welcome to take advantage of all that the Local History Education Program has to offer third-, fifth- and eighth-graders.

To participate, a teacher just needs to call and then the Howard County Historial Society will send him or her a packet to register. There will be a nominal fee for each program, $1 per student for Monroe Seiberling’s Mansion and  $3 per student for Gas Boom to Glass Boom and Reliving History at Crown Point Cemetery. The fee is solely to cover the Howard County Historical Society’s cost for supplies.

“Think about 3,000 a year learning about their community history while learning about science, recycling, vocabulary, writing, the economy and the environment — among other things,” Karickhoff said. “I think it’s good for our community spirit and pride.”