The Summer Tour Program at Hartford’s Ancient Burying Ground
The Association’s Student Summer Tour Guide Program is designed to enhance the visitor experience by interpreting Hartford’s oldest remaining historic site in the larger context of the city, and to provide students with a valuable learning experience while developing real-world job skills. The eight-week program begins in June with two weeks of intensive guide training and historical investigation, after which the students offer tours of the site.
The Ancient Burying Ground Association offered the program again in 2013. The students provided free summer tours of the city’s oldest surviving landmark, located at Main and Gold Streets. The public was invited to enjoy a tour on weekdays from noon to 2 p.m., Monday, July 1, through Friday, August 16, as weather permitted. Tours were free, and no reservation was necessary. Tours included information on the site itself and on the fascinating people who helped the city grow.
The Association provided a teacher, tour guide and public relations professional (Ms. Cheryl D. Thomas), who helped the guides learn about the city’s nearly four centuries of historical development and the important roles played by those buried in the Ancient Burying Ground as well as those who came after. Below is the teacher’s report.
2013 ABGA Summer Tour Guide Program
By Ms. Cheryl D. Thomas, Summer Program Director
The 2013 ABGA Summer Tour Guide Program began June 24, 2013 with eight students from four different Hartford schools. The students included two from the Mc Donough Expeditionary Learning School, two from the Classical Magnet School, one from Hartford Magnet Trinity College Academy and the Dr. Joseph S. Renzulli Gifted and Talented Academy. The eighth and seventh grade students were selected from a pool of 26 applicants interviewed in May, by the program’s new director Cheryl D. Thomas, a thirteen year veteran Hartford middle school social studies teacher and academic coach.
Due in part to the extended school year, of the normal two week training session provided to guides was shortened to an intensive one week session. During this time the guides were introduced to the history of Hartford, its founders and the physical layout of the burying ground. This training included the genealogical backgrounds and history of Rev. Thomas Hooker, Rev. Samuel Stone, and the Wadsworth, Seymour, Edwards, Wyllys, and Knox families to name a few; an overview of Hartford’s growth and development from Colonial times to the Gilded Age, and exploration of the burying ground’s grave markers and restoration projects as captured in the book, By Their Markers Ye Shall Know Them, turn of the century photographs, and articles about Emily Holcombe’s and the African American Monument.
The first official tour, offered in English and Spanish, was given on July 2, based on information identified, organized and written by the guides. Their four part tours continued throughout the summer, becoming more intense as the students gained additional knowledge and experience. By summer’s end a total of 308 tours were taken, by tourists, local visitors and day camp students. Guests from as far away as Australia, England and Columbia honored us with their presence. Weekly, students continued to offer tours and share stories with the founders’ descendants from various parts of the United States while assisting them in identifying and locating the markers of their ancestors. When the need arose to modify the original tour, to a more age appropriate version for our visiting first through fifth grader groups, the guides promptly developed an interactive tour that included storytelling and a marker stone scavenger hunt.
Meeting the challenges of their daily tour duties, the guides began independent research projects in mid-July. Based on the Common Core Standards for Interdisciplinary Writing, students developed and conducted inquiry and investigation on topics like “How does the judicial practices in 17th century Hartford compare to similar proceedings in the 21st century,” “Who were the five Black governors of Hartford and why were they important,” and “How did Jeremiah Wadsworth’s life as a patriot impact Hartford and the nation,” to name a few, were completed using resources at Center Church, the Hartford Public and Connecticut State libraries.
In addition to providing tours and completing a research project, students visited and toured Center Church’s Meeting House, the State Capitol Building, the Wadsworth Antheneum, the Butler – McCook House, the Old State House Building, and the Mark Twain House and Museum. The museum visits provided the guides with additional information about Hartford’s leading women, industries, culture and art. Last, but not least, the summer concerts sponsored by Center Church enhanced our efforts as guides and enriched the experiences of the students and guests.
On August 16th, the summer program concluded with a luncheon in honor of the guides and program sponsors. At the luncheon, Destiny Rivera, the winner of this year’s research contest presented her essay and the last tour of the season was conducted for the luncheon participants.