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Middle school students trek through history in downtown Nashville

Middle school students trek through history in downtown Nashville
Middle school students trek through history in downtown Nashville

This article appears in the Winter 2023-24 issue of Hallways, Harpeth Hall's bi-annual publication. Look for Hallways in your mailboxes soon!

Embarking on an urban adventure, 7th grade students used downtown Nashville as their classroom for a scavenger hunt that would lead them through the history of the city’s government. The project started on Harpeth Hall’s campus. From behind their desks, students learned about federal, state, and local branches of government — what each type of government is, how each functions, and how the branches affect the lives of citizens.

“We live in an interesting space. Nashville is a capital city full of history and government. It is a 20-minute drive to see this history in person,” 7th grade teacher Michele O’Brien said.

Through their scavenger hunt, students: Watched local government in action with a visit to the Nashville Public Library and Metro Archives — where they also met archivist and fellow Honeybear Grace Wright Hulme ’08.

Visited the Federal Courthouse, an important part of the judicial branch and home to the offices of Tennessee’s senators, and explored the State Capitol, the meeting spaces for the Tennessee State Senate and the Tennessee State House of Representatives.

Saw War Memorial Auditorium and Legislative Plaza, spaces created by the state to remember Tennesseans who fought for the nation and lost their lives in war.

Learned about the suffrage movement in Nashville by visiting Anne Dallas Dudley Blvd., named after a Ward Seminary alumna who was an essential figure in the voting movement for women, and saw the Hermitage Hotel, a battleground of pro- and anti-suffrage groups.

“They were excited to be exploring and felt independent in making the connections between themselves as Harpeth Hall students and the community downtown,” Ms. O’Brien said. “We had them walk down Anne Dallas Dudley Blvd., see her portrait in the state capital, and visit the ‘votes for women’ display in the Hermitage Hotel. They were able to make that connection of ‘Oh, she was a Harpeth Hall
girl, too.’”

This hands-on experience brought textbooks to life, raised civic awareness, and encouraged community engagement among the students.

“It is important anytime you can make the ‘dusty old history’ real to students,” Ms. O’Brien said.

And the students agree. In feedback to the teachers, one student commented: “I really liked getting to physically go into the different spaces we were learning about. It helped me envision our notes even more.” Another student said, “It was super interesting to see all these places where our day-to-day lives are contemplated and see how and who makes our laws.”