The primary thoughts here are that interacting with the local community helps the students raise awareness of the communal role in education, raise awareness of the world around them, and helps them understand the importance of connecting with others to enhance whatever their task may be. In social studies, we feel it's necessary to balance global, national, regional, and school district culture and history to prepare students for comprehensive answers to issues and concepts they currently are curious about or may need in their future career or as citizens. So often, students walk by and drive past so many excellent stories/resources. We hoped to slow them down in a fast paced world to understand how their local community became the way it is and understand the current identity of the communities they live in. Preserving stories can be a crucial method of helping future students understand the way things are/were in a culture. With the population growth in Washington County and the Slinger School District from 1990 to 2000 (Census 2000) containing many families who are new to the Slinger Area, we wanted to research what has changed in the area and what has stayed the same.
Students learned basic social studies terms in class but often used observation, site visits, interviews, surveys, photos, mapping, and other methods to apply terms at a deeper level. These inquiry based techniques help students practice for careers and their life as citizens when communication skills will help create dialogue between groups and an awareness of cause/effect and environment can be healthy. For history and sociology classes, students practice creating driving questions and then going out to find answers to their questions and reporting their findings in a limited manner.
Within sociology class, students applied their knowledge of capital types (Flora and Flora) to local areas. Within history class, many students attempted to put primary source findings into context by looking at secondary sources.
Student Role in Research
Students selected topics with a local framework. Teachers and Committee members then helped present models and frame their research. Students often completed multiple drafts as they captured something in writing, art, or video. Teachers helped students put into larger context.
Some of the drafts were not ready for this website. Some editing was done of a few things on this website but a large part of what you are seeing is a student work either in the development stage or a fairly polished stage with committee member support in creating context for the work.
Keep in mind that even if the product wasn't perfect, the process of gathering research and drafting was a valuable formative experience. For the high school student, active participation in the learning process, face to face contact with people in the community, and guided and independent practice looking for details in their environment and then making broader connections could pay great dividends after graduating high school even it's an uncomfortable process right now. Seeds get planted. Sometimes it takes time for people to grow.
General student and faculty observations about the Slinger Area: Year One of History/Culture Project (from discussions w/social studies students)
Students conducted surveys, interviews, and observed. Between the history and sociology students, students interviewed over 100 people with various ties to Slinger. After research and discussion, students in Sociology class found several patterns.
Analyzing Mrs. Keliher's Regional Look at Slinger booklet from 2008, students identified patterns in culture: many community members valued their work and had a pride in volunteering. The 2013-2014 Sociology Neighborhood Project showed that many residents value freedom, space, nature and green space, and privacy. Others felt a close bond with the people in their neighborhood. History and Sociology student interviews yielded a pattern of nostalgia among older residents in particular (Note: a few more interviews were conducted with older adults than younger on some topics). One interviewee said "We like things quiet and safe in Slinger. We've always had it that way in Slinger." Another Allenton resident said "I don't think Allenton will expand much. The people don't want that." While there is not enough quantitative or qualitative data to make a conclusion, there seems to be a blend between wanting expansion (observation of subdivision development/expansion of roads to four lanes, yearning for more things to do for youth on district survey) and not wanting expansion (signs fighting four lane expansion, Cedar Lakes Conservancy and Land Trust existence, observation of no big box retail stores, etc). More research would have to be done here to help make better conclusions, in particular to see if age plays a role in desires.
Several older residents mentioned "good people" as a reason why they live here. Others mentioned conservative ideology and safety in area. There were some strong agricultural ties with older residents and memories of downtown businesses which have come and gone. There were often comments that were vivid like "The Kachelmeier bakery.......mmmmm.....no one made better rolls. I can still smell them."
Current residents who were interviewed really seemed to covet close ties with their community, volunteerism, and the cultural ties that make the area strong: family, school, church, 4H and county fair, and a good work ethic. On a cultural question students included on a 2013 survey of Slinger School District families, there seemed to be some regular behaviors like going to fish fries, meatmarkets, and high school sports activities for the 461 respondents. Other behaviors like playing sheepshead, dancing the polka, and going to race track had a devoted following, but possibly are less of a regular event than eating a fish fry, visiting a meatmarket, and attending sporting events for a large chunk of current school district familes. More research on this would have to be done to help students in their conclusions.
Many current residents, both in interviews and in the district family survey, pledged support for school events, sports, and activities. In addition, school fundraisers for events like the SS department's Stars and Stripes Honor Flight Fundraisers in 2012 and 2013 have raised quite a bit of money, a sign that many community members value giving back to veterans. Slinger students and families supported 2013 Celebrate My Drive, a major public service campaign for State Farm Insurance trying to raise awareness of teenagers and driving safety. With the help of the community and district, Slinger High School received a significant grant for supporting the project. Several sociology students remarked at the success of school building projects recently like the Operation Field Goal Project that raised significant funds to give athletes a turf field as showing that community residents seem to value school sports and football more specifically. Community support for the band program on the trips around the world was mentioned by students as a source of pride. Students learned about about the many things that had to be done over time to build this feeling. Teachers hope that they see the human hands behind building these resources and programs that often seem invisible, understated, or have long been added to with the foundation that was built by others. We've talked a lot in the classroom about the need to peel the layers of what is visible today to reveal a root (legacy, ancestors, built capital).
When asked in a district wide recreation survey conducted by students in the fall of 2013, many residents admit to enjoying a variety of music and recreation in this area. When interviewed in person, it was quite common for interviewees to mention that music and recreation were important parts of growing up in this area when prompted by student questions (Note: Music and Recreation were two topics of interests from students in Year One of this project so you'll see Music and Recreation represented stronger in Year One and other topics in future years of research). The Raceway and the Ski Hill were mentioned by many interviewees as well-known area landmarks and a source of pride. "When I travel on business and mention Slinger, many know of the race track and the ski hill," said long-time area businessman and a member of several service organizations in his interview with a sophomore student. And whether the topic was racing, picking up an instrument, skiing, boating, fire fighting, 4H, card playing, or making food, one agent of socializaton was strong in the Slinger Area regardless of topic: Family. Certainly this project has provided opportunities to discuss how environment plays a role in helping shape the students identity: one of the goals of a sociology course. It has helped them develop a sociological perspective. And it has created some ideas for where to extend research in future years to increase the accuracy of measuring local culture.
Students have gotten much of their sample from students and older community residents. Accessing those age groups in other demographics will take time for high school students.
Teaching Methods, Student Role, and General Student Observations
Important definitions as used in this project:
Local History: the study of past events within the area of the Slinger School District
Local Culture: the sum of the way a particular group lives within the area of the Slinger School District. (language, dress, art, occupation, music, recreation, traditions, attitudes, norms, values, etc)
"As a former Slinger student and current teacher I felt the project was a great way to connect the past and present generations. I enjoyed taking a trip down memory lane while thinking back to my childhood growing up in Slinger. It was also great to build a connection with previous generations that have continued to support the Slinger community. It was nice getting to reminisce with my grandma during her interview and think back on all the great times we shared." Joe Blanchard, Slinger teacher, interviewee
"Your students did a great job at the History/Culture Night. It was fun to see the interaction between the generations. We look forward to working with your class again." Patricia Lutz, Executive Director, Washington County Historical Society