GPHS Moorings Newsletters - page 88

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In March I was pleased to be hired as the Director of Education at the Grosse Pointe Historical Society.
One of my first duties was to learn the history of the Provencal-Weir House and the GPHS organization, as
well as prepare to play the role of the School Mistress in the One-room Schoolhouse, a functioning classroom
located on the second floor. When I first viewed the classroom I was charmed by its warmth and impressed
by the historical accuracy of the space. It’s an enchanting room filled with benches, McGuffy Readers, chalk
boards and maps on the walls – even a lone “dunce cap” set in the corner (never used, by the way).
After allowing for time to review the materials my first month
and to learn the various curriculum for 2nd through 5th grades,
the reservations for local school groups started rolling in. In
May and June, 175 eager 2nd grade students from Mason, Ferry and Kerby visited for
their year-end field trip. What struck me most was the children’s reaction to the house,
which ranged from excitement to awe. Teachers, parents and children donned pioneer
costumes with squeals of delight and were instantly transported back in time. We toured
the Provencal-Weir House, had lunch on the lawn and played outdoor games. After
lunch, real school work began. In tandem with the State of Michigan “Know your Local
History” curriculum, students performed the play “Did You Ever Hear a House Talk?”
This history-based program has been approved by the State of Michigan to compliment
the studies for various age groups at local schools.
Also, having been a music specialist for years, I decided we needed to introduce music
to the program. I moved my 19th century Dulcitone, a keyboard instrument once owned by my Aunt Mary Grace, to the classroom.
Following our lessons, the students and I sang songs of pioneer days which included “Oh Susannah”, “Polly Wolly Doodle” and I’ve
Been Workin’ on the Railroad.” It was wonderful to fill the house with music and singing children!
One of the final projects for the day was a fun-filled treasure hunt and a tour of the small log cabin in the back yard. This was a
huge highlight for the students! As the day closed, we returned our costumes to the clos-
ets and were immediately transported to our modern lives filled with cell phones, iPods
and computers.
With the house full of laughing children, I couldn’t help but think how happy Pierre
and Euphemia Provencal would have been to see joyful children in their home once again.
In 2009/2010 we hope to accommodate a wider range of students, the curriculum
will focus on various topics to accommodate the “Know Your Local History” program for
all elementary school age groups – 2nd through 5th grades. The Society would love to
schedule educational field trips throughout the school year and to act as a support to local
schools. We hope to see you next year!
Izzy Donnelly
Director of Education
Grosse Pointe Historical Society
Izzy Donnelly
We would like to announce our most recent online
exhibition
Art & Orchids: The Whitcomb Estate,
which was
generously funded by the Wilkinson Foundation. The ex-
hibition features the legacy of philanthropy bestowed upon
the city of Detroit by Anna and Edgar Whitcomb and the
beauty of their gracious, historic residence, once part of
T.P. Hall’s lake front estate known as
Tonnancour
. The
Whitcombs shared a love of fine art and flowers. They
filled their home with distinguished Old Master paintings
and five greenhouses with exotic flora, especially their
treasured collection of rare orchids. Eventually a large
group of paintings and sculpture were gifted to the Detroit
New Online Exhibition
Art and Orchids:
The Whitcomb Estate
Educator’s Observations
continued on page 6
Second grade students prepare to read “Have
You Ever Heard a House Talk”
Students learn the old-fashioned way in the
One-Room School House.
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