- Sponsorship -

What’s in a name? Third graders learn at museum

In an exhibit room of the Lowell Area Historical Museum, Director Lisa Plank stood in front of a group of Murray Lake Elementary third graders seated on the floor and explained the significance of the Graham family to the area. And to the very building they were inside.

Lowell Area Historical Museum Director Lisa Plank welcomes Murray Lake third graders

The Graham’s impact goes beyond Lowell, Plank explained, as does the impact of several names common to the area. A brief discussion of names and the importance of biography and family history led to questions about the origins of students’ own surnames.

Morgan Anderson asked about her grandfather — “I think his last name was Kropf,” she said — whom she heard had something to do with the Lowell Showboat.

Plank said she hadn’t been able to find anything, but told Morgan “I’ll keep looking.”

Soon, students were calling out their own surnames, eager to hear where their ancestors were from and how they might have made their mark in the area: Gregory, Spaulding, Cooper, Thomas, Hooker, Belding …

“My mom said she’s from California,” one third grader told Plank.

Liam Bolen, foreground, asks a question while classmate Mark Stein looks on

Researching the Local Past

Museums don’t have to be quiet places. Since 2016, district third graders spend two full days there as part of a program that acts as a crash course in local history.

The immersion culminates the third grade unit on Michigan history. Activities this year include mapping the Lowell area during the fur trade, and job simulations of museum archivists and curators using old newspapers and other documents to create a mock exhibit based on a real-life person they research.

“I love this program because it puts the kids in charge,” said Shantelle Ford, museum administrative assistant and researcher. “It’s super fun for us to see their excitement.”

Murray Lake third graders piloted museum immersion in 2016. Now, all district third graders participate.

“Students have an opportunity to put what they hear in the classroom into action by reading the information at the museum and then doing hands-on activities to make it real for them,” said Murray Lake Elementary teacher April Simmons.

And by learning about local people and their impact on the community and beyond, Simmons said, “They learn that they can grow up here in Lowell and move on to become anything they want, anywhere they want.”

- Sponsorship -
Morgan Jarema
Morgan Jarema
Morgan Jarema is a reporter and copy editor, covering East Grand Rapids, Forest Hills and Northview. She 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.


‘Hope on the horizon’ as local teachers start getting COVID-19 vaccine

Lincoln School special education teacher, Ann Post believes there is 'hope on the horizon' for Kent ISD teachers and educators across Kent County after receiving her first round of the COVID-19 vaccine...

Sisters land grant to help those who ‘aren’t as lucky as we are’

Sisters at Page Elementary researched and wrote a grant to help homeless kids at Family Promise of Barry County...

Virtual counseling office offers ‘one-stop’ services

The site offers new ways for students to connect, on anything from academic questions to mental health issues...

Good behavior encouraged at home

For students learning from home, positive behavior rewards are still possible...



Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

Related Articles

Nate Fowler named new superintendent for Lowell Area Schools

Interim superintendent given the nod by Lowell Board of Education to lead the district...

Schools, organizations step up to feed students, families

Area schools continue to provide free grab and go meals at regular distribution events and community partners are helping to fill in the gaps to make sure everyone is fed during a very challenging time...

Students switch to Zoom for traditional visit to senior home

Students at Murray Lake Elementary didn’t want to miss the chance to spread holiday cheer to their senior neighbors, even though they couldn’t visit in person...
- Sponsorship -


Engagement: The Most Important Measure of Student Success

Polls find that students’ engagement in their school work declines as they ascend the grades. Tests that don’t relate to their real-life experiences exacerbate the problem...


Food ‘angels’ support hungry kids through pandemic

They work all across Kent County, guardian angels with peanut butter on their hands and crumbs on their shirtsleeves...
- Sponsorship -


Maranda Where You LiveWGVU