Voices From Three Centuries

Listening to the Voices: A Collective Narrative In Dramatic Form 
Deb Christenson (Wildwood Secondary School)

Statement of Principles and Pedagogy:      

             Wildwood Secondary School is a member of the Coalition of Essential Schools, founded upon ten common principles (see Appendix).  These principles include (#1) students learning to use their minds well, (#5) student-as-worker rather than teacher-as-deliverer-of-instructional-services, and (#6) students displaying their knowledge and skills opportunities such as exhibitions.  Exhibitions of learning for students demonstrate what they know and are able to do upon completion of a unit of study. 
            In keeping with this philosophical pedagogy, my “lesson plan” for time spent in the archives at Amherst College reading the Porter-Phelps-Huntington papers, in the collections at Historic Deerfield, and at the Sophia Smith archive at Smith College is an exhibition of what I, as a student, have learned.  This work is intended to serve as a model upon my return for my students at Wildwood to see learning as a lifelong pursuit accomplished by one of their teachers, and to provide an example of the collective narrative or dramatic reading which I will ask them to complete upon their study of the Depression.  They will read primary documents, (hopefully) archival records, and find or create objects from the material culture and generate similar dramatic readings.  All students must complete an oral presentation for their portfolio in the 9th and 10th grade American Studies class I teach, so this dramatic reading will complete this portfolio requirement.
             I want to thank all those involved in helping me to complete this dramatic reading, including the directors of the institute, Drs. Bruce Laurie and Marla Miller; program administrator Margo Shea; all my fellow participants, especially readers, Erin Fallon, Michael Schmidt, Kristin Dawley, Bryce Little, Nicole Pauly, and Kathy Cardille; and the archivists at each of the sites.  Listening to the “voices of three centuries” turned paper people into real people and I am grateful for the experience of being a researcher, a student, and a teacher all at the same time.

Presentation Components: 

Weaving the Voices

Additional Materials: 

Works Cited

  • Coalition of Essential Schools.  May 2002. July 29, 2003  
  • Johnson, L. and O’Neill, C. (ed.) Dorothy Heathcote: Collected Writings on Education, London, Hutchinson, 1984.
  • Kelly, Catherine E.  In the New England Fashion:  Reshaping Women’s Lives in the Nineteenth Century, Ithaca, Cornell University Press, 1999.
  • Krueger, Glee.  A Gallery of American Samplers, New York, Dutton, 1978.
  • LaBranche, John and Conant, Rita.  In Female Worth and Elegance:  Sampler and Needlework Students and Teachers in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, 1741-1840, Portsmouth, N.H., The Portsmouth Marine Society, 1996.
  • Five Colleges Museums.  July 29, 2003
  • Syracuse University.  July 29, 2003 
  • Wagner, B. J. Drama as a Learning Medium, Washington, D.C., National Education Association, 1976.


  • The Common Principles (Coalition of Essential Schools)
  • Patty Boltwood’s Sampler
  • Photo of Bethia Throop Huntington
  • Ellen Wright Garrison’s certificate of membership in National
  • American Woman Suffrage Association      
  • Photo of Arria Huntington and her sisters
  • Photo of Margaret Sanger
  • Photo of “The Passion of Sacco and Venzetti” by Ben Shahn