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Tsongas Center Hosts Quebec Students, Local Teachers

Teachers Groups Scheduled to Arrive Through Early August

Local teachers, from left, Mike Neagle of the Lawrence Charter School, Erica Yandow of the Tyngsboro Public Schools and Kathleen Hunt of the Rogers Middle School in Lowell, prepare to test some water from the Concord River.

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It’s been a busy spring so far at the Tsongas Industrial History Center ߞ; and summer promises to be busier still.

Two Saturdays  ago, on May 16, 53 students and four teachers from a Quebec community college, Cepag Beauce-Appalaches in Saint-Georges, arrived to spend the day learning the rigors of assembly-line manufacturing, the intricacies (and monotony) of weaving cloth on manual wooden looms in the weave room of the Boott Cotton Mill; and finally, at the Suffolk Mill on Father Morissette Boulevard, the sheer force of a water-powered turbine ߞ; all in replication of the ways of the 19th-century technology through which the city made its name.

“I want the students to know who it was who started the Industrial Revolution,” said one of the teachers, Denis Poulin, to a reporter at the time. “All of the technology we use in Canada today was first developed here.”

The trip, arranged through the combined efforts of the Quebec college and Sheila Kirschbaum, UMass Lowell’s liaison to the Tsongas Industrial History Center, ended up costing the students only about $50 apiece. It is a connection, says Kirschbaum, that could prove fruitful for both schools.

“We’re hoping it will lead to exchanges,” she said, adding that UMass Lowell, through the efforts of French Prof. Carole Salmon, is already discussing the prospects for a reciprocal trip north sometime soon.

Provost Ahmed Abdelal is supportive of the notion. “Given the French heritage of such a large percentage of people in the area,” he said, “it’s encouraging to envision French Canada as a potential partner with us."

But the trip south by the Quebecois is only one of several such excursions on the menu this spring and summer. Two weeks earlier, on May 2, about a dozen local teachers, who first visited as a group last fall, made a return trip to the Center to help pilot a new environmental program partially funded by UMass History Prof. Chad Montrie’s Creative Economy grant. The teachers will be conducting their activities along the St. Lawrence end of the Concord River Greenway (now under construction), as well in a Boott Mills laboratory.

And finally, from late June through early August, as part of an initiative now in its fourth year, the Center will be the focus of NEH-sponsored visits from roughly 120 teachers from around the U.S., who will come to attend summer workshops. 

In addition, a separate group from Vermont, funded by a Department of Education grant, will be at the Center from July 5 through 10.  This group, on its final day, plans to convene an immigrant panel ߝ which will include Bowa Tucker of the Center for Family, Work and Community (CFWC), a native of Sierra Leone, as well as two local high-school students ߝ to speak about the modern-day experience of immigrants in Lowell.

The Tsongas Industrial History Center is the product of a partnership between the UMass Lowell Graduate School of Education and the Lowell National Historical Park.  For more information on the details or schedules of coming events, contact at ext. 5080.

- Geoffrey_Douglas