Editor's note: The following is a press release issued by Plainfield School District 202:
District 202 third-graders now have an extra special view of their community’s history thanks to a unique partnership between the school district, its textbook publisher and the Plainfield Historical Society.
The district’s new third grade social studies textbook, published by the Pearson company features an entire chapter about thehistory of Plainfield. Work started on the project about a year ago, said Joan Woolwine, District 202’s director for elementary and middle school curriculum and instruction.
All of District 202’s elementary social studies textbooks are customized for the district in various small ways, Woolwine said. However, the third grade social studies textbook needed “local” content more than any other because the third grade curriculum focuses on local history.
“Unfortunately no publisher could help us with that,” she said. “Fortunately for us, the Plainfield Historical Society had already created four units of local history curriculum that we have been using for several years,” Woolwine said.
Soon a plan was born to incorporate those units into the new third grade social studies textbook.
The chapter starts with a page about Plainfield icon Elizabeth “Bess” Eichelberger, who passed away in 2009. She is the namesake of Eichelberger Elementary School.
Eichelberger served 26 years on the District 202 Board of Education, including as the first female Board President, and led the district following the 1990 tornado. She continued her extraordinary volunteerism for decades after her retirement, supporting the YMCA, United Way of Will County and her church, among many other groups.
“It is very appropriate that a chapter about our local history starts with a special lead-in about a special lady,” Woolwine said.
The rest of the chapter comprises three teaching units spanning settlement by the Potawatomi Native American tribe along the DuPage River, to the first white settlers in the early 1800s, to the story behind “Fort Beggs” to the infamous tornado of August 1990 that destroyed much of the town.
Third-graders will learn how Plainfield was officially established, its relationship to Chicago and its growth as an agricultural community, and later as a tourist and vacation destination.
Several parts of the chapter make clear that Plainfield has always been an important transportation hub, most especially for the railroad and highways which still impact the village.
“We are very proud that our third graders now have an outstanding local resource for our students,” Woolwine said.
Plainfield Historical Society members Michael Lambert, Sharon Kinley and Joel Craig researched, wrote and coordinated the third grade curriculum for this project.
“The collaboration between the Plainfield Historical Society and District 202 was a rewarding experience all around. We really enjoyed working together,” said Kinley, herself a former District 202 third grade teacher.
“The third grade local history curriculum project offered an unparalleled opportunity to provide accurate historicalinformation to be put in the hands and minds of a future generation,” Lambert added.
“We hope, through this study of Plainfield’s local history, that many students may, one day, aspire to preserve history here at Plainfield or elsewhere,” Craig said.
District 202 and the Plainfield Historical Society have worked together on several other projects, including a walking tour of historic downtown Plainfield for all third graders, and the restoration of the 1847 School House, which now sits outside District 202’s administrative center.