‘What we went through’: Hatfield students share stories of pandemic for historical record

  • Meguey Baker, the collections assistant at the Hatfield Historical Museum, talks to the sixth graders from Hatfield Elementary School about a project they donated to the museum sharing some of their artwork and stories during the pandemic. The project will become a part of the museum’s collection. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Meguey Baker, the collections assistant at the Hatfield Historical Museum, takes sixth graders from Hatfield Elementary School on a tour of the museum. The students shared their work documenting their experiences during the pandemic, which will become a part of the museum’s collection. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Levi Shea, 12, a sixth grader at Hatfield Elementary School asks a question about one of the collections at the Hatfield Historical Museum during a tour Tuesday morning, June 8, 2021. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Meguey Baker, the collections assistant at the Hatfield Historical Museum, takes sixth graders from Hatfield Elementary School on a tour of the museum. The students have donated a project they completed sharing some of their artwork and stories during the pandemic. From left is Levi Shea, Ryden Majewski, and one of the children’s teachers, Megan Millette. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Meguey Baker, the collections assistant at the Hatfield Historical Museum, takes sixth graders from Hatfield Elementary School on a tour of the museum. The students had donated a project they completed sharing some of their artwork and stories during the pandemic. The project will become a part of the museum’s collection. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

Staff Writer
Published: 6/9/2021 7:26:23 AM

HATFIELD — Masked-up students and teachers, empty shelves in stores, and people working and studying in front of a computer are among photographs sixth-grader Riley Campanella snapped to illustrate life during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Many of these digital images, including one that Riley, 12, said show her parents getting vaccinated, are being provided to the Hatfield Historical Society as part of a detailed record of how the pandemic affected students at Hatfield Elementary School.

“I hope that future generations will see what we all went through as kids,” Riley said.

The “My History” project that lasted for much of the school year provided an opportunity for the 36 students in two sixth grade classes to appreciate that they were living through a historic time and to contribute to an understanding of the pandemic.

Work on the project began in October when Historical Society curator Kathie Gow talked to the students via Zoom, and culminated Tuesday morning when the students presented collections assistant Meguey Baker with the materials, including digital scrapbooks, diaries and posters, that can be used in multimedia and online presentations, as well as in future exhibits. Baker told the students that a lot of people don’t get to participate in history in such a way.

“All of us have lived through an amazing time historically,” Baker said.

While students in the past have been able to undertake history projects, such as interviewing a military veteran in their families, the students in class during the 2020-21 school year, because of the moment in time, are collecting information that might otherwise not be documented.

“We’re very enthusiastic about nurturing interest in history by students,” Baker said. “We can try to meet them with what’s in the curriculum and how can we support that.”

As teachers, Jenny Charette said she and Megan Millette have used an enrichment block to encourage their students to make reflections as personal as they wanted, and then to share with the society what historians might use.

“They were really invested in this throughout the year,” Charette said.

“Anytime we can have an authentic purpose makes it more meaningful to them,” Millette said, adding that it became a nice way to reflect on the year.

Isabella Gavron, 12, made a poster with quotes from the internet mixed with others from her classmates, alongside photos of masks, hand sanitizer and computers.

“With all the pictures and stuff they’ll realize what we went through, and that it’s been a hard time,” Isabella said.

Ava Willard and Keighley Gworek, both 12, used cellphones to complete a video taken inside and outside the school building. The video shows desks spaced 3 to 6 feet apart, tape on the hallway floors and their peers taking mask breaks.

This video newsletter, as they call it, can be uploaded by the society for its website or Facebook page.

Ava also undertook a project that reflected on “acts of kindness” done during the pandemic, such as giving out thank-you cards and candy. Ava said she went to the Northampton police station to provide these thank you cards to officers who have worked through the pandemic, and also gave them to her family.

Maya Bell, 11, created a timeline that captures the events, in video and photos, that happened throughout 2020 and 2021 that should be remembered. The two or three events per month each have their own slideshows, she said.

Baker said she is not yet certain how the materials will be used, but that some may need to be printed out because electronic storage can fail and formats can beco obsolete.

“We have a saying that digital is forever or 10 years, whichever comes first,” Baker said.

Baker will then figure out how to contextualize the students’ work within the town’s overall COVID story, putting them in the broader context of the impacts on people’s lives, businesses and town government. This could become a retrospective, in the Hatfield Historical Museum or through a website, about how Hatfield dealt with the pandemic.

“Part of our mission as a historical society is how to share history with a wider world,” Baker said.

Scott Merzbach can be reached at smerzbach@gazettenet.com.


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