Ticket to Ride grant
Ticket to Ride Program Connects 5th Graders to the Blackstone Valley
With ever-tightening budgets, most schools can no longer embark on field trips to enrich student education. Recently, however, a lucky group of 5th grade students at two schools in Worcester, MA – Quinsigamond Elementary School and Francis J. McGrath Elementary –was able to experience their local national park in its heyday when they stepped into the past!
A grant from the National Park Service (NPS) Northeast Region's Ticket to Ride Program, with support from Blackstone River Valley National Heritage Corridor, provided the needed resources to enable students to experience the many national parks by providing funds to support bus transportation to historic sites and other park resources.
One of the many challenges teachers face, is finding a way to provide an educational experience that engages students and fosters excitement about learning. This grant program allowed students to travel to the Blackstone River and Canal Heritage State Park to experience life as it was when Blackstone River was a vibrant, integral part of the Industrial Revolution.
Situated in the heart of Worcester, both elementary schools include a high percentage of minority students, a representation of the varied immigrant population of the city, as well as low-income families. "Our goal is to have the children learn about the importance of immigration to the growth and development of not only the United States, but also the very city in which they live," said Pat Barnard, focused instructional coach at Francis J. McGrath Elementary School.
Working closely with 5th grade teachers at the elementary schools, NPS Ranger Chuck Arning developed classroom presentations about the Blackstone Heritage Corridor that directly related to the curriculum. Ranger Arning also worked with interpretive staff from the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management at the Kelly House Transportation Museum in Lincoln, RI to develop an interdisciplinary approach to telling the historical story of the Blackstone Canal. Students explored the Blackstone Canal and the Kelly House Transportation Museum and walked away with a new appreciation for life during the early years of the Republic. "Using an interdisciplinary approach involves weaving the skills of science, math, language arts and reading into a program," said Arning. "Such an approach helps the kids to see that math is not an isolated skill, but one that can be applied time and time again in every-day situations."
While learning about the development of the Blackstone Canal, an early critical transportation link between the port city of Providence and the inland village of Worcester, the students also learned how to identify poison ivy, how the Great Blue Heron stalks its prey and how a watershed operates. In addition, by bringing the students to the Blackstone Valley's partner sites, places where they can see and touch history, and hike along the canal, incredible opportunities were created for the students to make meaningful connections to the many valley resources for themselves. By improving urban students' awareness of and access to outdoor and cultural experiences close to home, the Ticket to Ride grant deepens the connection the students have with their local history, cultivating future park stewards.