SALEM — Slavery, immigration and the fishing industry and their effects on the North Shore are among the topics area students researched as part of Essex Heritage and the National Park Service's Park for Every Classroom program. 

In its seventh year, the program encourages teachers to create projects with their students that uses cultural, natural and historic resources in their communities. 

This year, 718 students, including some from Beverly, Ipswich, Manchester Essex, and Salem, developed research projects using the program. They presented their work last month at the Salem Visitor Center. 

Among them were eighth-graders at Saltonstall School in Salem, who are creating interactive, tech-based guides and books that give a child's point of view of Punto, the North Shore Community Development Coalition's urban art museum in Salem's Point neighborhood. They toured the museum and used digital images of the murals to elicit reactions to the artwork from kindergartners at their school. They also interviewed artists who created the murals and met with art and publishing professionals. The goal is to get young learners engaged with and interested in the museum. 

“This project really helped us connect with the Point community that is right outside our school,” said Saltonstall eighth-grader Connor Clyne.

At Beverly Middle School, eighth-graders studied documents at Historic Beverly to learn about the hidden history of slavery in their city, eventually focusing on Juno Larcom, an enslaved Beverly woman who successfully petitioned for her freedom. They learned how trans-Atlantic slavery played a role in Beverly's wealth and analyzed artifacts related to the local abolition movement.

High school students in Ipswich researched the fishing industry and the significant role it played in the North Shore's heritage. During a field experience at Maritime Gloucester, they learned about the history of the industry, dissected squids to understand their biology, and created art with plankton.

Sixth-graders at Manchester Essex Middle School have been working on multiple service-learning projects in their study of United Nations’ global goals. In one project, they invited veterans to discuss their experiences and created a display of local artifacts in relation to veterans’ service while collecting supplies for Operation Troop Support. They also learned about hunger issues, organized a food drive for Beverly Bootstraps, and designed a garden to align with environmentally-friendly practices.

Third-graders at Witchcraft Heights Elementary School in Salem focused on immigration in Salem. They heard from multiple speakers who talked about their experiences as immigrants. In partnership with The House of the Seven Gables Settlement Association, the students created mementos for new citizens who will participate in a naturalization ceremony at the Gables later this year.

Salem High School students are coming up with ways to make more inclusive stories about recent immigration in Salem known. They toured the city's Point neighborhood and thought about places they consider essential to their community and its recent history. They're developing audio tours that will be available online so the public can learn about recent immigration, specifically the history of immigrants from the Caribbean. 

A nonprofit, Essex Heritage develops programs that enhance, preserve and encourage recreation, conservation and interpretation projects within the Essex National Heritage Area, which consists of 34 cities and towns within Essex County.

“It is wonderful to see how excited students get to be contributing to their local communities in this project work," said Beth Beringer, Essex Heritage's director of education, in a statement. "The program inspires teachers, students, and community partners come together to inspire civic engagement and action, building skills and knowledge along the way."