Gifted students learn about ancestry

Published 7:00 am Friday, February 16, 2018

Earlier this month, 2nd and 3rd graders from the Westside Elementary School’s gifted class went on a field trip to the Hilda Hoffman Memorial Archives to participate in a “Family Detective Adventure.”

Westside Elementary School’s Gifted Teacher, Alicia Verweij, said the students are currently working through a unit on the basics of research. As a way to give her students some hands-on experience on the topic, Verweij decided to call the Archives and went on a field trip on Feb. 7.

Excited by the prospect to reach out to the children of Picayune, Archives Chair Carole Lund set up facility’s first field trip event, entitled the “Family Detective Adventure.” Lund said the children were commissioned as “family detectives” before being shown around the archives so the children could look for “clues” about their ancestry. The archive staff dressed up as characters in preparation for the event, with Lund playing Inspector Clouseau, Vice Chairman Don Wicks playing Detective Snoop Dog, and volunteer Annette James playing Ms. Twiggy – the living family tree.

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As they led the group through the archives, staff members taught the students how to research their own ancestry using public records, old photographs and cemetery records.

Verweij said that the students were very excited during the trip. According to her, many students researched not only their own family tree, but the family trees of friends and classmates as well.

“They had a ball,” Lund said.

The group arrived at the archives just before noon and stayed for about two hours before heading home. The students were allowed to take home a printed copy of their family tree.

“I think it was really a life changing experience for a lot of the kids. It was a great eye-opening experience” Verweij said.

While upcoming events such as this one are not planned for the near future at the Archives, Lund said the staff are always open to hosting similar trips if anyone is interested. Verweij said that she hopes the “Family Detective Adventure” can become a regular event for her gifted students, and plans to return with a new set of students in two years.