BRATTLEBORO — Poet Wendell Berry once said, "If you don't know where you are, you don't know who you are."
This simple yet provocative idea has been at the center of the Hilltop Montessori Middle School's seven-week-long "Sense of Place" study that has taken its students far beyond the classroom to explore, up close and personal, the true meaning of community which has culminated in several exhibits around town and film viewings this Friday at 5:30 and 7 p.m. at the Brattleboro Museum and Art Center.
Poring over Historical Society archives, discovering primary source materials at the Brooks Memorial Library's History Room, digging through decades of deeds in the town clerk's office, engaging in surveys, interviews, photo shoots, and conversations in the busy shops and businesses of downtown Brattleboro and in the quiet rooms of Holton Memorial Home and Pine Heights Nursing and Rehabilitation Center, Hilltop's middle school students have immersed themselves in a comprehensive study of both the ordinary and the extraordinary people, places, and events of Brattleboro.
A central part of the study, "Life in Brattleboro — The Society Project," is a look at a wide array individuals from the Brattleboro community. After an exploration of the fundamentals of human society, students selected an individual, conducted an interview, crafted a thesis that described their subject's role and connection to the community, wrote a storyboard, led a photo shoot, and created a digital photo montage that supports the student's thesis.
In these films, students share their special insights of some of Brattleboro's local merchants, community leaders, service providers, artisans, artists, and nonprofit directors. The films will be premiered at the Brattleboro Museum and Art Center on Jan. 8. Also on display at Amy's Bakery through the month of January are framed photo collages dedicated to the same subjects.
On display at the Brooks Memorial Library also through the month of January are books written and bound by Hilltop Montessori Middle School that are the result of primary source research on a student-selected topic of Brattleboro history. Subjects as varied as the story of the Dutch Bake Shop to the 1912 Brattleboro Pageant at Island Park are represented by these books that combine serious academic research with creative flights of student imagination. Everyone is invited to open, read, and enjoy these original and inventive journeys into our collective past.
For more information, visit www.hilltopmontessori.org or call 802-257-0500.