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November 15, 2020 - 8:00am

Children haven't changed -- they run, play tag, laugh, and enjoy learning about local history

posted by Anne Marie Starowitz in history, news, batavia, LeRoy.

In the '80s, I was a fourth-grade teacher for the Batavia City School District, and one of the many highlights of my career was teaching local history. This year, I was again able to show children where they came from through the lens of local history.

I had the opportunity to take my second-graders from St. Joseph Regional School on walking field trips to the Holland Land Office Museum. I am fortunate to meet with my students physically every day; this is not a reality for many schoolchildren.

Even though it is 2020 and the children use technology every day with Chromebooks, a tablet, or a computer, they still enjoy going back in time and learning about their history.

Every child chose a famous local person to learn about and research. With the help of their parents, the students visited various famous places in Batavia.

Since I had children from LeRoy, we also added their local history; they researched Ingham University, Orator Woodward, Herman LeRoy, and Stein Farms. I know the children and parents found this interesting. 

As we walked down Main Street and stopped at The First Bank of the Genesee, I told the story of Trumbull Cary. Our next stop was James Brisbane’s Mansion. They also enjoyed looking at the Upton Monument and learning about our famous Civil War hero, Union Colonel Emory Upton.

On our trip to the Historic Batavia Cemetery, the children connected with where their renowned person was buried. To see the children looking up at the height of William Morgan’s monument was priceless, or connecting the Richmond Memorial Library with the Richmond Mausoleum was a wonderful moment.

So, as they say, some things change, and some things stay the same; the children are the constant in my life as a teacher. Children haven’t changed. 

What is different in 2020 for all of our children is the coronavirus pandemic -- they sit at a desk 6 feet apart; they walk the halls wearing their mask and sanitize their hands entering the classroom and going out of the classroom. When they get a chance to go on recess, the children can run and skip, play tag, enjoy the playground equipment, and, most of all, just laugh.

I mostly enjoy their laughter and watching them run. I am so proud of them, so even though we live with the tangible specter of COVID-19, the children are still children and want to hear about Joseph Ellicott, Dean Richmond, and take a visit to the beautiful Historic Batavia Cemetery.

What I find so sad is that these young children don’t know what it was like before coronavirus.

They are missing sitting on a rug listening to a story, working in groups, singing in Glee Club, or playing sports. What they hear now is the humming of room air purifiers and the smell of disinfectants. Good thing that our history will never change.  

Hopefully, we will be able to return to “normal times,” and this, too, will become part of our past, not our day-to-day lives.

Photos courtesy of Anne Marie Starowitz.

Top, St. Joseph Regional School second-graders on the steps of the Brisbane Mansion, now housing the City of Batavia Police Department.

Below, St. Joseph Regional School students at the gravesite monument of Joseph Ellicott in Batavia Cemetery.

Bottom, teacher Anne Marie Starowitz stands behind her class in front of the Holland Land Office Museum.

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