tampabay.com

Field trips dig into area's history

A pilot program gives 1,000 seventh-graders a look atlandmarks and events that make the neighborhood unique.

By ALEXANDRA ZAYAS
Published April 28, 2006


YBOR CITY

Seventh-graders Chelsea Daubar, 12, and Krista Livingston, 13, attend Orange Grove Middle Magnet School, a five-minute drive from the heart of Ybor City.

But before going on a local history field trip last week, their ideas of Ybor were worlds apart.

Chelsea recalled sitting on her great-grandmother's lap in her West Tampa home and listening to stories about her great-great-grandfather, the cigar factory lector.

Krista only knew about Gameworks.

Hillsborough County School Board member Jack Lamb wants to close that gap. Kids need to know, he says, that there's more to Ybor than bars and night parades.

Lamb recently spearheaded the Re-Viva Ybor pilot program to bring local history alive to seventh-grade students countywide.

Last week, a group of about 1,000 students from seven Hillsborough middle schools watched a performance by the Spanish Lyric Theater group at the Italian Club of Tampa, then took guided tours of the Ybor City Museum and landmarks.

Before and after the field trip, students were assigned readings and other lessons. Orange Grove students broke into groups, each assigned to study a different landmark and report on it to the class.

Lamb hopes the program will widen the curriculum, which has narrowed because of the FCAT.

"We are just slicing curriculum up and down with math and science and reading," Lamb said. "The kids are missing out on a lot."

The School Board will review an evaluation of the program by May 30. If successful, the district may expand the program to all middle schools.

Orange Grove science teacher Christine Dunn is brimming with ideas on how to incorporate the program into next year's curriculum.

A math teacher can explore Ybor architecture. An English teacher can ponder poetry and literature. Students can create multimedia projects using video cameras and theater.

"It's visual. It's firsthand,'' Dunn said. "They get to actually see and experience what it's like living in Ybor.''

Zach Maher, 13, surveyed the all-white historic casitas outside the Ybor museum.

"I would play manhunt in here all day, every day," he told his Orange Grove classmates. "Because if you paintball, the houses would be in different colors."

Not to worry, teachers. Zach learned something, too.

"I always thought Ybor was ... the old historic place and everything,'' he said. "But I never really thought it had that much history behind it.

"Now, I definitely know it has a lot more. Now, whenever I come here, it'll be different."

Alexandra Zayas can be reached at 813 226-3354 or azayas@sptimes.com.