The Woodhaven Cultural and Historical Society is adding some color into students’ lives by asking them to envision their community without any.
A Woodhaven coloring book was only one of the several projects the group was helping students at St. Thomas the Apostle’s Woodhaven history club explore, along with researching the history of the Wyckoff-Snedicker family cemetery on 96th Street and crafting a video on the history of Forest Park.
Ed Wendell of the historical society said his group wanted to reach out to schools throughout the community and engage them through stories of the past.
“The goal is to give students a little perspective,” Wendell said. “When the younger people get involved, we are hoping it brings them to the idea that they have something to contribute to the conversation.”
Last Wednesday marked the second year the historical society teamed up with Woodhaven students to showcase different projects they were working on. The students gathered at Oak Ridge to show off their work in front of friends and family members in a makeshift graduation ceremony.
Wendell has been checking in with them periodically over recent months to monitor their progress and said they were creating things that could be passed down for generations.
The coloring book, which was still in the works, included iconic pieces of Woodhaven in a simple black-and-white sketch, which Wendell said he hoped could be reprinted for younger Woodhaven students for years to come. The book featured things like the storied carousel in Woodhaven and even state Assemblyman Mike Miller (D-Woodhaven).
“For the most part, these kids have been doing all this work on their own,” he said. “And when it’s all done, pieces of work like this coloring book could be a really interesting way to teach younger students.”
Students have also been conducting research on the history of the Wyckoff-Snedicker family cemetery, using resources like Ancestry.com to find information about those buried there.
The whole concept of working alongside Woodhaven kids in the name of history sprouted up when Wendell said he collaborated with other members of the community to bridge the historical society with students in Queens. The partnership started last year and had students creating a video about the history of Woodhaven, which was premiered in town along with a miniature red carpet and awards ceremony.
And with each passing year, Wendell said he was impressed to see the kinds of things students take away from looking into their community’s past.
“They get a little bit of perspective about the neighborhood and realize how much it has changed,” he said. “But they also realize that in a lot ways, it hasn’t. The important thing was getting the conversation going between the younger and older people.”
Looking ahead, Wendell said he hoped the students could stick with the work they have been conducting and seal the deal on the historical projects, including the coloring book. He also said the historical society would be reaching out to other schools in Woodhaven to spark similar projects beyond just St. Thomas.
“Part of the kick is the adults’ experiences too,” Wendell said. “We had a lot of previous residents of Woodhaven making financial contributions to the projects. It really caught the imagination of everyone involved.”
A video of the Wednesday ceremony could be found here – http://youtu.be/Xor6WASyJhA
By Phil Corso