This school year, New Jersey students will benefit from a history lesson, courtesy of the Monmouth County Historical Association (MCHA).
Dr. Wendy Morales, assistant superintendent of the Monmouth-Ocean Educational Services Commission, explained, “As per the New Jersey Department of Education’s 2020 Student Learning Standards and related legislation such as the Amistad Law (2002), teachers in grades three through five must now cover the colonial era, including the role of slavery. For example, by the end of grade five, students will be able to compare the practice of slavery and indentured servitude in colonial labor systems.”
This is where MCHA’s “Beneath the Floorboards: Whispers of the Enslaved at Marlpit Hall” will play a key role. Part of the funding for this impactful exhibit was it being used for education. When the pandemic made class trips nearly impossible, a virtual experience was created to make the exhibit information widely accessible to students. There are two versions of the digital resource; one is scaled to the upper elementary level, while the other is for the intermediate/high school level.
The resource will be used as a supplement to what public school teachers are mandated to teach.
Morales continued, “The questions and activities included in the Marlpit Hall resource are standards-aligned and cross-curricular. This means students will not only learn historical facts, but will be challenged to think like historians by analyzing primary sources (written documents, art and music of the time period) and making connections between historical eras.”
Dana Howell, MCHA director of Education, added, “The ‘Beneath the Floorboards’ exhibit is special because of the way these local stories are told. Each enslaved individual is brought to life via primary source documentation and solid historical research. Their stories are presented without any form of politicization, but rather from a fact-based and humanized lens. Students are able to connect with actual enslaved individuals who lived locally and learn about what life may have been like for them.”
The resource has received an overwhelmingly positive response from additional groups such as the New Jersey Education Association, the New Jersey School Boards Association and the New Jersey Center for Civic Education. MCHA will be presenting to the National Council for Social Studies in December on productive collaboration between educators and historical societies, highlighting the website as such.
And this is not the only project. MCHA’s new executive director, Shannon Eadon, has made education a major focus of MCHA. They are currently using their well-archived resources to develop additional programs for educators and students. To learn more about these programs and about MCHA’s many programs and museums, visit MonmouthHistory.org.