THERE WAS a time when many Howard County children carried their lunches to school in a syrup bucket and families traveled by horse and buggy to shop in Ellicott City. There were no gas stations or cars, and wagons in need of repair were serviced by the local blacksmith.
You can read about the early history of our county in A Trip into the Past of Historical District V, a book written by children at Clarksville Middle School under the direction of teachers Carroll Haddaway and Pat Greenwald. Originally published in 1996 as District Five is Still Alive, the book was updated in honor of Howard County's sesquicentennial.
Each year, Haddaway's eighth-grade Gifted and Talented Program social studies class works on a project related to U.S. history. In 1996, the schoolchildren were challenged to collect information about the early days of Howard County.
"The interesting thing about their research is that it was the first time many of the kids did research from primary sources," said Greenwald, who is a Gifted and Talented Program resource teacher at the school. "They were used to going to encyclopedias or going on the Web. This was the first time they collected data from interviews or going to sites and recording their impressions."
The book includes information about families and individuals important to the development of the county; maps; descriptions of natural disasters and historical sites; and transcriptions of oral histories.
"Ninety-nine percent of the time, the people the students contacted for information went overboard for them. Some of the senior citizens said that their own grandchildren weren't really interested, and they were happy to share their stories," Greenwald said.
She said that besides creating an informative history of the county, schoolchildren have benefited in other ways from the project. "Kids tend to think that history began with them," she said. "A lot of our students are new to this area and they don't really feel rooted to the area."
"Doing something like this helps them feel more a part of the evolution of the community."
Copies of the book are available for $8 each. To purchase a copy: 410-313-7057.
`Alice in Wonderland'
Alice Zehrbach, music teacher at Clemens Crossing Elementary School, can hardly wait for Jan. 17. That's the opening day of the school's production of the musical Alice in Wonderland.
"Everybody shines in this production," Zehrbach said. "It's a fun play."
The title role will be played by fifth-grader Hannah Stubbings. Sol Zurier, also in fifth grade, plays the White Rabbit. The characters Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum are played by third-graders Rachel Lustbader and Gaby Diener. Kelly Brown, a fifth-grader, will take the role of the queen.
Zehrbach said that although directing musicals starring her young actors is an involved process, "it feeds the soul of the child that lives in me. It's a lot of work, but the kids are very committed and so are their parents."
Zehrbach said parents have jumped in to make sure the show is a success. "The parents are tremendously supportive," she said.
Eileen Jones is the production's assistant director. The set was built by Sue and Jim Brown and Karen and Jim Geiser. Irene Hechler designed the programs. Baney Settle, Tammy Sandborn and Sheryl Berger are in charge of costumes. Kim Stubbings is lighting director, and Stephanie Zurier is coordinating the action backstage.
"Every time I see my kids perform, I know they'll remember this 20 years from now," Zehrbach said.
Performances of Alice in Wonderland will be presented Jan. 17 and 18 at Clemens Crossing Elementary School.
Active adults are invited to start the new year with a free introductory exercise class taught by a certified fitness professional.
Forever Young Fitness classes will be held Friday mornings, beginning this week, at Historic Oakland. Exercises designed to increase flexibility, strength and cardiovascular endurance are set to music.
The cost for the four-week session is $20 for Columbia lien payers and $22 for others. The one-hour classes, which begin at 10:30 a.m., run to Feb. 8.
Information and registration: 410-730-4744.
Disaster safety planning
Theresa Grassi, a volunteer firefighter and external case manager for Ruxton Health and Rehabilitation Center in Pikesville, will speak at the next American Business Women's Association meeting. Her topic will be "Fire and Disaster Safety Planning."
Women of the community are invited to hear Grassi's presentation and dine with professional women from the region.
The meeting will be held at 6 p.m. Monday at the Columbia Sheraton on Wincopin Circle.
Tickets are $25, and reservations are required.