, Newburyport, MA

Local News

April 15, 2014

With 'Port Projects,' Nock students learn about city's past

Research project ties into 250th anniversary

NEWBURYPORT — Seventh-graders at the Rupert A. Nock Middle School are on the cusp of presenting their Port Projects, a months-long history lesson that aims to educate both the children and the city.

Celebrating the 250th anniversary of Newburyport’s incorporation as a town, the research projects explore all aspects of local history with slideshows, models and oral presentations.

The Custom House Maritime Museum will host 20 selected projects in its galleries from May 23 to May 27, with an opening night ceremony in which students will present their research to friends, family and local historians.

The purpose of the Port Projects is twofold: to increase students’ awareness of Newburyport culture, and to build crucial research and networking skills. The 93 students were expected to use books, online materials and interviews to discover part of the city’s history.

Social Studies teacher John Webber first conceived of the Port Projects after a field trip last spring to the Custom House.

“I became very aware that student knowledge of the history of Newburyport was limited,” Webber said. “There really wasn’t a sense of the history of the town. There wasn’t the element of pride in your community and history and culture.”

After soliciting feedback from the students and pitching the idea to the administration, Webber was encouraged to make the projects part of his “flex” curriculum, a time for less-structured education. Teachers delve into topics outside the normal Common Core curriculum, giving students a glimpse of the lesser-known areas of their fields.

Beginning in October, students were invited to choose topics that speak to them personally. Their choices ranged from investigating architectural landmarks like the Chain Bridge to recounting historical periods like Newburyport’s shipbuilding origins. Webber then asked them to decide for themselves how best to present their findings.

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