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Appreciation for History Begins at Home

Diane Titche’s third-grade class is so enraptured by museum exhibits, they’ve made their own.

“This is who I’m named after,” explained Payton Hoffman — whose full name is Payton Kortney Pauline Hoffman — as she pointed to a black-and-white photograph of her great-grandmother, Pauline Francis Krzystof. Pauline passed away when Payton was a baby, she explained, “but she got to hold me like every single day before she died.”

Below the photo of Krzystof is a photo of her childhood home on Kissing Rock Road, and a scrap of wallpaper from inside. “The house is in really rough shape, but it’s still standing today,” Payton said.

Payton, in a bright pink tutu and leggings, stood in front of a display she created that tells the history of the Krzystowczyk family and their journey from Poland to the U.S. — as well as modifications to their surname.

Titche’s students recently ended their studies of Michigan history, which was made more local by a trip to the Lowell Area Historical Museum.

Last year, Titche’s third-graders participated in the Grand Rapids Public Museum’s IMMERSE program, which uses the museum as a classroom for a week for students in grades 2-8. “They really tuned into the newcomers exhibit and wanted to know how their own families got here,” Titche said.

Jillian Fabis re-purposed a shoebox to create her display, which chronicles the heritage of her family, originally from Slovenia. “That’s actually Austria now,” Jillian explained to her classmates.


“This item is important to me because I can look up to him as a role model,” Caleb told his classmates. Caleb Velting’s display included a belt buckle owned by his great-grandfather, Netherlands-born Wilhelm Velting, to commemorate the family business, Velting Contractors, which got its start in 1922.

Titche’s class’s family history displays will be on exhibit at Murray Lake in mid-May during the annual learning fair. They also will be exhibited during a May IMMERSE event at the Grand Rapids Public Museum.

“I love what they do with these displays,” Titche said, “and I love feedback from parents on how much they also learn about their families through this project. I’ll keep doing it as long as my students keep getting something out of it.”


Students Explore Michigan History at Local Museum

Grand Rapids Public Museum’s IMMERSE program

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Morgan Jarema
Morgan Jarema
Morgan Jarema is a Grand Rapids native and a product of Grand Rapids Public Schools, including Brookside and West Leonard elementaries, City Middle/High School and Ottawa Hills. She found her tribe in journalism in 1997 and has never wanted to do anything but write. For 15 years she was a freelance journalist for The Grand Rapids Press, covering local schools and government, religion, business, home & garden and lifestyles. She and her husband, John, think even those without kiddos should be invested in their local schools and made to feel a part of them. Read Morgan's full bio or email Morgan.


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