Second-grade artists find inspiration in the community

For more than a decade, Mt. Lebanon School District has been partnering with the Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation, The Historical Society of Mount Lebanon and Mt. Lebanon Municipality to provide second-graders with a one-of-a-kind field trip in Mt. Lebanon.

“We have to plan it a year in advance,” says Jason Ramsey, principal at Foster School and school district social studies coordinator. “It’s not just a walking tour. We bus students uptown from the seven schools, where they meet up with the Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation docents, who teach them about the historical aspects of the buildings and their significance in the community.”

The students  stop at the Historical Society, where they meet a re-enactor from Wayne’s Brigade from Whiskey Rebellion times (Mt. Lebanon resident Dave Frankowski) and then learn about what it was like to be a student in the early 1900s, thanks to visual aids provided by Mt. Lebanon resident Judy Sutton. The students then stop at the municipal building and continue on to the public safety center, where they talk about local government and community services.

The purpose of this program is to foster community awareness in young residents. “Being that we are a walking school district and we have an enormous amount of history and pride within our community, this project instills that in our students from a young age,” says Ramsey.

Leading up to the trip, the students also learn about the history and architecture of their school buildings and their individual homes. They take home a book titled “Your House,” which prompts them to look closely at the details of their home. The book helps them identify everything from the different types of roofs to what their walls are made of, and then they go outside and sketch their houses.

That’s where this award-winning social studies program takes on a new twist. This year, the PHLF and the Historical Society of Mount Lebanon decided to print some of the students’ sketches on notecards to be sold as a fundraiser benefiting both organizations.

Notecard Image

“The drawings are kind of amazing, and Louise Sturgess [executive director of the PHLF] had the idea to put them on notecards,” says Sally Nuckles, second grade teacher at Markham School, whose class’ sketches are featured on the notecards. “Then, when Sturgess came to pick up the sketches, she noticed students’ watercolor paintings of The Point on display in the Art Room. So she picked seven of those to include on the notecards, too.”

The notecards were printed this month, and when they arrived in Mrs. Nuckles’ classroom, the children were delighted. “Their response was, ‘We’re famous!’” laughs Nuckles, who believes the notecards program could open up to the rest of the school district if the sales do well this year.

Please click here to purchase your notecards ($18) today, or visit the Historical Society at 200 Lebanon Avenue, Pittsburgh, PA 15228.