ProjectWA Outstanding Achievement

The original ProjectWA team reunited at Seattle’s Washington Hall on May 30th to receive our award for Outstanding Achievement in Historic Preservation from the Department of Archaeology and Historic Preservation. Congratulations to Anna, Ava, Mallory, Shayna, Sonnette and Mr. Rovente for your innovation and hard work to help raise awareness of our state’s heritage. And, thank you to the State Historic Preservation Officer for this recognition.

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ProjectWA Students Become the Teachers

Yes, ProjectWA is about connecting history and place. For five Lopez Island Middle School students, their teacher, and me, it’s been about so much more. Fundamentally, ProjectWA has been about connecting people. Anna, Ava, Mallory, Sonnette and Shayna have made many connections this semester: with historical figures, with preservation advocates, and with each other. Today, they connected with the 4th Grade Lopez Elementary Social Studies class.

As their final ProjectWA assignment, our students were to write a blog post on one of this year’s Most Endangered Historic Properties. They learned quite a bit in the process: different approaches to research, how to interview an expert, and how to write a compelling call-to-action. The final articles are great. Mr. Rovente and I wanted the kids to go a step further – by turning those written works into presentations.  Lori Swanson, the Lopez Island Elementary social studies teacher, agreed to provide the audience for those presentations: twenty fourth-graders, whose final topic of the year is Washington State History.

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It was gratifying to watch the ProjectWA students become the teachers. The fourth graders were engaged throughout, and their questions for the middle schoolers were great. After every presentation, the younger kids got a chance to connect history and place the old-fashion way – with stickers and laminated maps of Washington State. Apps are cool, but stickers make everything more fun.

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With the student presentations complete, this semester’s ProjectWA class has come to an end. Now it’s time for me to go to school. For the next two months, my family and I will travel all around Washington State, checking out as many of the students’ app locations as possible. We’re also in search of other historic places, so we’re inviting people to send us suggested locations for us to research and then incorporate into the Washington State Insider app.

I’m incredibly proud of what Anna, Ava, Mallory, Shayna and Sonnette accomplished this semester. I’d like to thank them – and their awesome teacher, Anthony Rovente, for taking on something that had never been done before. We all learned a ton. I know there’s a lot more to learn.

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RevitalizeWA

For most Lopez School students, the word “endangered” brings to mind species of plants or animals that live in this fragile ecosystem that is the San Juan Islands: disappearing lichen from rocks on Iceberg Point, diminishing populations of sea birds, or hundreds of other species of concern around the Salish Sea. In the past few weeks, we’ve learned about another endangered list: historic properties around Washington State.

In late April I attended a conference in Chelan, called RevitalizeWA, organized by the Washington Trust for Historic Preservation. With my summer history trip around the state approaching, I thought this would be a good way to get a sense of some of the communities I’d be visiting in advance of hitting the road to promote the Washington State Insider app. During the opening reception of the conference, Chris Moore, the executive director for Washington Trust, announced the 2016 Most Endangered Properties List for Washington State – seven at-risk properties that embody the cultural heritage of their respective communities and the region overall. I was surprised to see that the #1 Most Endangered Property is Enloe Dam – a location that Ava, one of our ProjectWA students, had identified to put in the Washington State Insider app!

I learned so much at RevitalizeWA – from strategies to “right size” legacy cities to innovative approaches to preserving communities’ Main Streets – that I had to report back to our students upon my return to Lopez. To my surprise and delight, the students suggested that their final ProjectWA projects (a blog post to be published on this site) should be focused on this year’s Most Endangered Properties List. The idea makes so much sense, and I’m thrilled that this was the students’ idea, not mine.

We immediately took action on this idea. Each student picked one of the properties from the 2016 list, reached out to that property’s champion (usually the local Heritage Society), and created a location entry for the Washington State Insider app. We have a small class of just five students, but we’ve created app entries for each of the seven properties. For their blog posts, Ava picked Enloe Dam, given she was already interested in that place; Anna picked Woodinville Schoolhouse; Shayna picked Providence Heights College, Mallory picked the Dvorak Barn; and Sonnette picked the LaCrosse Rock Houses. Every one of the students’ property contacts replied immediately with enthusiasm – answering questions and providing more background information, maps, photos and videos. The students are now in the process of writing their blog posts.

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Lopez Island Middle School students work on their final projects, Most Endangered Properties

When Mr. Rovente and I came up with the idea for this semester’s ProjectWA class, we had no idea this is where we’d end up. We started with a good cause: raising awareness of the lesser known aspects of Washington State history while raising money for new text books. We’re ending up with an even bigger objective: helping preserve the places that represent Washington State’s cultural heritage.

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