Otter Valley students create Moosalamoo Museum

BRANDON — Students in the Moosalamoo Center program at Otter Valley Union High School have taken presentational learning to whole new level.
Students this month unveiled their Moosalamoo Museum, which closed Nov. 21.
The Moosalamoo Outdoor Education Program began at OV in 2005 and offers 10th-12th-grade students interested in the outdoors a chance to learn about ecology by doing. It’s called experiential learning, and it links traditional academics with real-life applications in the outdoors.
Deep in the lower level of OV, students transformed their usual meeting place into a museum featuring exhibits based on local history and research that the group has done during their “Paddle and Portage” learning unit. The unit included a three-day canoe trip down the Connecticut River, plus the study of local watersheds and their historical importance to the local economy and way of life from the time of the Native Americans through the 1800s to present day. In addition to the Upper Connecticut River, students also studied the local watersheds of Otter Creek and Leicester River.
THIS EXHIBIT SHOWS different tools used by loggers and outdoorsmen back in the day. Photo by Lee J. Kahrs
“The museum serves as capstone of our past unit,” said Moosalamoo founder and teacher Josh Hardt. “It represents some impressive work and is complete with artifacts and powerful information about local watersheds, their history and importance.”
Indeed, the museum contained seven displays and each one was staffed by two students ready to present their findings and answer questions. Perhaps one of the most interesting exhibits was the result of a modern day “dumpster dive” into the old Tenement Hill dump in Proctor. The dump was near where Proctor Marble quarry workers and their families lived and is where they disposed of their trash. In just a few hours of looking, the Moosalamoo students found great treasures, including old medicine bottles from the “Proctor Drug Company,” whiskey bottles, an old leather shoe from the 1800s, even a small trophy from 1914.
JACOB O’CONNELL, LEFT, and Storm Brown with their Abenaki economics and culture exhibit. Photo by Lee J. Kahrs
They also studied the history of logging in the region, and the dangerous work of floating the logs down the Connecticut River to the sawmills before the onset of trucking and good roads put an end to the practice.
There was a display of canoe paddles. Each student carved their own paddle out of ash, using different styles of paddle for different uses.
Next was an exhibit about the Abenaki Native American culture in the region, including their economy and the importance of leisure time and family connections.
One impressive display was a relief model of a watershed complete with a pump and running water, to illustrate the concepts of erosion and streambank stabilization.
Last in line was an exhibit about canoes and how people used to travel on the rivers and creeks in the area before roads, and what they would pack.
“They worked so hard on this,” Hardt said proudly. “For these folks, learning is part of who they are. It’s part of their identity. They see and they run with it.”

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