Currently on display at the Loretto city hall is the Smithsonian Crossroads project which highlights the changes in rural America over time along with local contributions highlighting the culture and history of western Marion County.
Among those involved in collecting local history artifacts for the project was Marion County High School Social Studies teacher Jamie Brown, who helped conduct oral history interviews and collect artifacts included in the exhibit.
“We collected a lot of local histories, oral histories as well as collecting photographs and cataloging a lot of local history from the western part of the county,” Brown explained. “Last summer I was able to do oral history interviews with different people in the community -- it was a really neat experience to be a part of that.”
However, Brown also brought her involvement in the project to the classroom. The culminating project for her Oral History class worked in concert with the Crossroads project.
Brown assigned her students a project focusing on change over the past fifty years within their community.
“We started out interviewing family members about 9-11, and then Covid, and then we went to the big project of working with the Crossroads project,” Brown explained.
Students conducted oral history interviews and transcribed them. Those that focused on the western part of the county then became a part of the Crossroads exhibit.
Then, in April, Brown and five of her students -- Haley Sparkman, Braelyn Lee, Ericka Hoppes, Sarah Blandford, and Lizzie Daugherty -- visited West Marion Elementary to teach lessons to fifth graders, which focused on understanding the differences between urban and rural societies.
But the lessons also asked students to reflect on their own communities
“We talked about their community and what they loved most about their community,’” Brown said. They also had the elementary students participate in activities that encouraged them to think about their local community by answering questions such as: Do you always plan to live in Marion County? If you were the mayor of your town what would you do differently?
Brown also helped coordinate a school-wide art contest where students illustrated or painted landmarks from their community, and those pieces of art are also on display along with the Smithsonian project.
“We asked them to draw or paint their favorite part of their community and then write a short paragraph explaining why,” Brown said.
The winning students included: Joie Mattingly, Paisley Lyvers, Riley Kelty, Claire Hutchins, Emily Osborne, and Isabella Grace O’Daniel.
Those students received prizes and have their work on display at the Crossroads exhibit.
In all, both the project her high school students completed and their outreach work with elementary students highlighted the importance of understanding and valuing community and its history.
“You just don’t realize the resources a community has until you start compiling them and sharing them,” Brown said.